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Dollar struggles in Asia on Fed rate hike uncertainty

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP | Investors shifted out of the dollar after minutes from the Federal Reserve's October meeting lowered expectations for interest rate hikes next year

HONG KONG (AFP) - 

The dollar struggled Thursday in Asia following the previous day's losses as dovish Federal Reserve minutes rowed back expectations for US interest rate hikes.

While board members at the US central bank will likely lift borrowing costs next month, official records of their October meeting indicate some are increasingly concerned about persistently low inflation as well as high equity prices.

The release of the minutes came after data showing a surprise drop in key durable goods orders, fuelling a sell-off in the greenback across the board.

They also came out a day after Fed boss Janet Yellen had warned that too quick an increase in rates could cause inflation to stagnate well below the bank's two percent target rate.

"The minutes reflected a continued push toward another rate hike because of economic strength and a tight labour market," Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said.

"But like Fed chair Janet Yellen... the minutes also reflected the Fed's concern that inflation may stay lower for longer. That suggests calls for three and four hikes next year may be misplaced."

Expectations that rates would be lifted several times next year -- partly through an improving economy and flagged tax cuts -- helped drive the dollar up over the past year.

In Asian trade Thursday the dollar was flat against the yen, euro and pound, having tumbled against all three on Wednesday.

But higher-yielding units were well up. The Australian and Canadian dollars each rising 0.6 percent, with the commodity-reliant currencies boosted by a jump in oil prices, while South Korea's won added 0.1 percent and the Mexican peso jumped 0.8 percent.

The Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringgit and New Zealand dollar were also well up.

The euro was provided support by hopes of an agreement on Britain's bill to leave the European Union, while Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel continues efforts to reach a deal to form a coalition government.

There are hopes she can persuade the opposition Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz to reconsider an alliance to avert months of paralysis in Europe's biggest economy.

On equity markets Hong Kong climbed another 0.2 percent, having closed Wednesday above 30,000 for the first time in a decade, while Singapore added 0.1 percent. Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta also advanced, extending gains from the previous day.

However, Shanghai, Seoul and Sydney were all lower.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 30,066.81

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,421.67

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1823 from $1.1824 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3323 from $1.3326

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.20 yen from 111.18 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN six cents at $57.96 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 12 cents at $63.20

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.3 percent at 23,526.18 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,419.02 (close)

© 2017 AFP