The dollar struggled to recover Thursday in the wake of dovish Federal Reserve minutes highlighting concern over low inflation and crumbling corporate support for US President Donald Trump.
The greenback was hovering around 110 yen as safe haven assets were reinvigorated, with Asian equities treading water to broadly hold gains from a rally earlier in the week on easing tensions over North Korea.
The Nikkei ended marginally down with automakers and banks in retreat after Fed policymakers hinted at a slower pace of interest rate hikes at their July meeting, with Japanese shares also dragged lower by the stronger yen.
Some members of the US central bank argued it could afford to “be patient” before raising rates again, according to minutes that showed policymakers focused on persistent weak inflation.
Hong Kong ended lower despite market heavyweight Tencent gaining almost two percent.
The tech giant, which owns hugely popular social media platform WeChat, beat expectations to report surging quarterly net profit to see its fastest revenue growth in seven years.
Stocks in Shanghai saw healthy gains, ahead of results from Chinese e-commerce leviathan Alibaba.
“USD weakness followed the release of (Fed) minutes that indicated ‘many’ members feared inflation will stay lower for longer,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Fresh turbulence in Washington
Wall Street on Wednesday shrugged off developments in Washington to rise above 22,000 even as Trump disbanded a pair of business advisory boards after several chief executives resigned over his widely criticised response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
The dollar inched higher against the euro in afternoon forex trade Thursday after the fresh turbulence in Washington had piled more pressure on the US unit.
“If you thought the president lacked the necessary key back room operators to implement the White House economic agenda, well things just got worse,” said Oanda’s Stephen Innes.
“Predictably the dollar sagged, and safe havens were back in vogue.”
Investors are now awaiting the latest European Central Bank minutes due later Thursday. Policymakers have signalled they are considering phasing out quantitative easing as the eurozone economy gathers pace.
On commodities markets, crude prices saw modest rises following a sharp decline overnight after Energy Information Administration data showed US production climbed to its highest level in more than two years, heightening worries about a supply glut.
“Market participants have been concerned that rising production in North America will continue to counterbalance OPEC and Russia’s efforts to freeze output to support oil prices,” said Margaret Yang Yan, an analyst at CMC Markets Singapore.
Europe’s main stock markets eased at the start of trading on Thursday, with London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index down ahead of key UK retail sales data.
— Bloomberg News contributed to this report —
Key figures around 0820 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 19,702.63 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 27,344.22 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,268.43 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1739 from $1.1766
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2887 from $1.2891
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.99 yen from 110.19 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 6 cents at $46.81 per barrel
Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 7 cents at $50.34
New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 22,024.87 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,414.47 points