Dollar slumps on Russia probe report, Tokyo stocks slide

The beleaguered dollar struggled to recover from a fresh slump Friday triggered by a report on the probe into alleged Russian interference in the US election.

The greenback was under sustained pressure against the Japanese yen, testing 110 in afternoon forex trade, with soft US economic data adding to negative sentiment.

Analysts warned it could go lower still with US wages data out later Friday unlikely to offer much relief.

The emboldened yen, seen as a safe haven currency, dragged down the Nikkei, which closed 0.4 percent lower. Toyota later announced upward revisions in full-year profit as it forecast a downturn in the yen.

Shanghai drifted lower by the close of play as Chinese stocks lost momentum, while Hong Kong was broadly flat in afternoon trade.

Sydney stocks declined as the central bank cut its growth forecast and expressed concern over the local dollar’s strength, but Seoul clawed back some losses endured Thursday after President Moon Jae-in announced plans to raise corporate taxes.

The revelation by the Wall Street Journal that special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — a step towards possible criminal indictments — sparked a furious reaction from President Donald Trump and dented gains on Wall Street.

The Dow still edged to a record for the seventh straight day Thursday, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq retreated.

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“In no small way this yen strength is related to news that broke overnight that Robert Mueller has empanelled a grand jury as he continues to look into the Russia issue — as the president called it,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist AxiTrader.

Stephen Innes, who heads Asia-Pacific trade at forex firm OANDA, noted: “Another toxic elixir for the greenback is brewing.”

Oil prices retreat

The turmoil in Washington is casting doubt over Trump’s ability to push through an agenda aimed at boosting growth.

Traders were awaiting a key US jobs report that may provide clues on the strength of the world’s top economy and the odds of an additional Federal Reserve rate hike this year.

But Chris Weston, Australia-based chief market strategist at IG Markets, cautioned the figures were unlikely to bolster the dollar.

“It’s all about wages here, and … specifically, if we can see more than a 30bp increase of wages (month-on-month) then perhaps, just perhaps, the USD can find some love,” he said.

“It would be a big surprise though.”

The dollar was also under pressure as a survey showed growth in the American services sector slowed sharply in July, shaking confidence in Friday’s payroll data.

The euro, which had moved above $1.19 Wednesday for the first time since January 2015, was up against the greenback Friday at $1.1879.

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The ailing US currency failed to bolster oil prices, fuelled by concern American shale producers are ramping up production despite the persistent supply glut.

According to figures from industry agency Platts, the US rig count in July increased by 13 from the previous month.

“As far as the rise in production, that is something that definitely the bears are going to (latch) on to,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.

Europe’s main stock markets lost ground at the start of trading on Friday, with London, Paris and Frankfurt all lower.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report

Key figures around 0720 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 19,952.33 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP less than 0.1 percent 27,547.27

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,262.08 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1879 from $1.1874

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3149 from $1.3142

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.09 yen from 110.02 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 49 cents at $48.98 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 24 cents at $51.97

New York – Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 22,026.10 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,469.63 points

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