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Asia stocks consolidate after touching decade highs, dollar steady

Asian stocks edged down on Thursday, consolidating after touching their highest in a decade, while the dollar held steady before the U.S. inflation report for August is published.

An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, China May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

TOKYO: Asian stocks edged down on Thursday, consolidating after touching their highest in a decade, while the dollar held steady before the U.S. inflation report for August is published.

Financial markets will also be on tenterhooks ahead of a run of data from China due at 0200 GMT, including factory output, fixed asset investment and retail sales, that will show the strength of the world’s second-biggest economy.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.1 percent after rising to its highest since 2007 the day before.

Japan’s Nikkei was effectively flat following its climb to a one-month high on Wednesday.

Wall Street edged up to a record high on Wednesday with gains in consumer discretionary and energy stocks helping offset losses in technology heavyweight Apple Inc .

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood tall, lifted as U.S. Treasury yields climbed to 2-1/2-week highs on an ongoing improvement in broader investor risk sentiment.

The dollar index was at 92.399 after touching 92.530 overnight, its highest since Sept. 5. It had slumped to a 2-1/2-year low of 91.011 on Friday, when Hurricane Irma threatened the continental United States and on North Korea concerns.

Focus returned this week to fundamentals from geopolitical risks and natural disasters, with investors poised for the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) due later in the session and its potential impact on the Federal Reserve’s stance on interest rates.

Expectations for the Fed to hike rates again in 2017 have waned as U.S. inflation has proved to be relatively sluggish.

“The dollar would be sold if the CPI turns out to be weak but the main focal point is how the stock market reacts to such an outcome,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“The U.S. financial sector has benefited from the recent rise in yields. Should yields fall on lackluster CPI data, that could be used as a pretext to sell U.S. stocks which have already hit successive record highs.”

The dollar was unchanged at 110.510 yen after setting a one-month high of 110.690 overnight. So far this week it has gained 2.5 percent against its Japanese peer, a currency often sought in times of risk aversion.

The euro was steady at US$1.1890 after losing 0.7 percent the previous day, while sterling was flat at US$1.3211 .

The pound hit a one-year high of US$1.3329 on Wednesday following strong domestic inflation data, with the currency market braced for the closely-watched Bank of England (BoE)policy meeting due later on Thursday.

The BoE must decide on Thursday how forcefully to phrase the prospects of a first interest rate rise in a decade when it weighs up the need to help Britain’s Brexit-bound economy against tackling a jump in inflation.

In commodities, crude oil prices dipped slightly after posting a big surge overnight after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said a global surplus of crude was starting to shrink.

Brent crude futures was down 0.3 percent at US$55.00 per barrel after reaching a five-month peak US$55.21 the previous day.

U.S. crude slipped 0.2 percent to US$49.22 per barrel after rallying 2.2 percent overnight.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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