November 23, 2017 / 8:35 AM / a year ago

Daily Briefing: Weaker dollar weighs as U.S. marks Thanksgiving

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the 70th National Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

LONDON (Reuters) - After the worst day for the dollar index since June on Wednesday due to Federal Reserve angst about sub-target inflation, Chinese shares took a sharp hit on Thursday.

The CSI300 index suffered its biggest drop in almost 18 months – dropping 3 percent by the close, with the Shanghai composite down more than 2 percent and HK’s Hang Seng down over 1 percent too. There was no direct trigger cited apart from concerns about an ongoing tightening of financial sector regulations in an attempt to crimp excessive lending.

That tightening has been pushing bond yields higher locally and the yuan has also been rising against a weaker dollar – up 0.3 percent on Wednesday. The move also comes amid concerns about possible bubbles in Chinese tech and internet stocks, with Tencent more than doubling this year.  

The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States will make for thin volumes and possibly skittish price moves for the rest of the week, however. Along with the dollar, concerns in Fed policy minutes about persistently low inflation dragged short and long Treasury yields lower, with markets now mulling a possible "Powell pause" in the interest rate hike cycle when the new Fed chair Jerome Powell takes over in February. Powell has a nomination hearing before the Senate Banking committee next week.

Sterling was largely unmoved on Wednesday by the 2018 UK budget speech, where a number of marginal spending increases in housing and elsewhere was offset by overwhelmingly gloomy forecasts for UK growth and productivity over the next five years – in stark contrast to the synchronised boom in most other developed world economies.

However, the pound has largely discounted Brexit-related concerns already, and traders will now turn to next month’s EU summit for clues on how the negotiations on leaving the European Union can move forward.  

After a decent rally over the past week, it’s likely to be a tricky two days ahead for South Africa’s rand. It fell 0.3 percent in early trading but was still near a one-month high ahead of a central bank interest rate-setting meeting at which the majority of analysts polled see rates staying on hold at 6.75 percent.

Investors are also focused on ratings decisions by S&P and Moody’s on Friday. If either cut their local debt ratings for South Africa, the government’s $125 billion stock of rand-denominated debt will no longer be eligible for the world’s big global bond indices. Whether that is largely discounted in market pricing already is a big question.

Editing by Gareth Jones

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