Dollar rises on US tax-cut progress but Flynn deal spooks traders


Hong Kong (AFP)

The dollar rose in Asia on Monday after US senators squeezed through a tax-cut bill at the weekend, but equities were muted on news that a former aide to Donald Trump had agreed to co-operate with a probe into Russian election interference.

After marathon talks in Washington lawmakers finally passed controversial reforms to the tax system, which the president says will fire up the world's number two economy.

The greenback strengthened against the yen, euro and pound, though dealers remain reticent as both houses of Congress must reconcile their differing bills before sending a final draft to the White House, while analysts also warned of political risk.

"If the legislation gets ratified quickly, there would likely be another dollar bounce, but the longer this drags out, the dollar will probably sell off as political uncertainty has been the greenback's undoing over and over again in 2017," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

Traders are keeping a close watch on Washington after former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn admitted lying to investigators probing possible collusion between the Trump election campaign and Moscow.

Commentators said the developments bring the probe closer to Trump and his family, while some have also leapt on a tweet by the tycoon suggesting he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI.

- Bitcoin rally -

"Trump haters are all over this as a sign of complicity and some say the odds of impeachment have just risen materially," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

US markets saw sharp swings on the news and all three main indexes in New York ended Friday in negative territory.

In Asia, Tokyo finished the morning 0.2 percent lower, while Shanghai shed 0.1 percent, Sydney eased 0.2 percent and Singapore was 0.3 percent off.

However, Hong Kong edged up 0.1 percent after falling for five straight days, while Seoul added 0.2 percent.

While oil prices eased, energy firms enjoyed a rally after crude jumped almost two percent on Friday in reaction to a deal between OPEC and Russia to extend production caps through to the end of next year.

Bitcoin was back above $11,000, having rallied to another record close to $12,000 after a US regulator cleared the way Friday for futures in the unit to trade on major exchanges.

After the announcement the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) -- the world's biggest futures exchange -- said it will launch futures contracts on December 17.

"The fact that CME -- the biggest kid on the block -- is moving early into cryptocurrency will force other major exchanges to follow suit in the fear of not missing out," said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers. The unit has risen 15-fold since the start of the year.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 22,774.38 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 29,115.48

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,314.70

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1869 from $1.1899 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3472 from $1.3477

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.73 yen from 112.12 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 17 cents at $58.19 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 17 cents at $63.56 per barrel

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.2 percent at 24,231.59 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,300.49 (close)