Focus on euro, ECB, China trade data

The European Central Bank held interest rates steady at 0 percent on Thursday. ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank would be prepared to make a decision on its quantitative easing program at its October meeting. For now, the central bank’s net asset purchases of 60 billion euro a month would continue to the end of the year “or beyond, if necessary,” Draghi said.

In reaction, the euro spiked to $1.204 against the dollar from around $1.1970 before Draghi’s press conference began on Thursday. The common currency held onto gains to stand at $1.2023 at 9:45 a.m. HK/SIN.

“The euro shot higher because Draghi made it very clear that it is not a question of if, but a question of when they would start tapering asset purchases,” said Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, in a note.

The dollar nursed its wounds after falling sharply overnight. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six currencies, fell as low as 91.405 overnight, compared with levels around the 92 handle over the past two weeks. The dollar index last stood at 91.483.

Against the Japanese currency, the dollar fetched 108.45 yen, a touch above levels around 108.41 seen in the last session.

Stephen Innes, APAC head of trading at OANDA, said traders were concerned with the impact Hurricane Harvey might have on data that could eventually lead “the Fed to sit on their hands for the rest of 2017.” Higher-than-expected U.S. jobless claims and geopolitical concerns also weighed on the currency, Innes said.

In corporate news, Apple is being pursued as a potential partner by three separate groups — including a consortium which counts Western Digital as a member — making offers for Toshiba’s memory chip business, Nikkei Asian Review said Friday.

Western Digital is attempting to secure just below 16 percent of Toshiba’s chip unit on the assumption of a future listing, Reuters quoted Japanese media as saying.

Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, or Foxconn Technology Group, has also continued to push its case for buying Toshiba’s memory unit, according to media reports. Hon Hai’s bid has support from Apple, Softbank and Sharp, Bloomberg said, citing a Hon Hai spokesperson. Toshiba’s shares rose 0.31 percent, while Hon Hai shares were up 1.3 percent.

In individual stocks, South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor fell 2.54 percent and auto parts supplier Hyundai Mobis tumbled 5.3 percent. The moves followed Reuters headlines that the automaker had resumed operations at its China plant on Thursday after an incident earlier in the week over payment issues with a German supplier.

On the energy front, Brent futures edged up 0.2 percent to trade at $54.60 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude added 0.16 percent to trade at $49.17. U.S. crude futures had slid overnight due to a larger-than-expected build in U.S. inventories, Reuters said.

Energy markets were also cautious about the approach of Hurricane Irma, which could disrupt crude shipments, Reuters added.

Meanwhile, China foreign exchange reserves added almost $11 billion in August to $3.092 trillion, Reuters reported on Thursday. That was the seventh consecutive month in that China’s reserves have risen, Reuters said.

Before the market open in China, China’s central bank set the yuan midpoint stronger for a tenth consecutive day, according to Reuters. Friday’s midpoint stood at 6.5032 to the dollar. The People’s Bank of China allows the yuan spot rate to rise or fall a maximum of 2 percent against the dollar, relative to its fixing rate.

The on-shore yuan traded at 6.4801 to the dollar at 9:44 a.m. HK/SIN. In the offshore market, the Chinese currency traded at 6.4868 to the dollar.

Here’s the economic calendar for Friday (all times in HK/SIN):

  • After 10:00 a.m.: China August trade
  • 4:00 p.m.: Taiwan August trade

Stateside, major indexes closed mostly flat after financials and media stocks weighed on the broader market. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 0.1 percent, or 22.86 points, to close at 21,784.78.

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