Asian stocks steady as dollar pulls back from 13-1/2-year high

SINGAPORE: Asian stocks steadied on Friday as the Thanksgiving break in the United States pegged the dollar's relentless surge that had sucked capital out of most emerging markets.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.05 percent on Friday. It is poised to end the week 0.8 percent higher, but remains down almost 2 percent from its close on Nov. 8 before Donald Trump's surprise election to president, whose protectionist campaign promises are widely seen as negative for the region.

A Trump administration is also expected to boost fiscal spending, inflation and interest rates in the United States, triggering a dramatic surge in US Treasury yields and the dollar, and in turn sending capital out of emerging market economies.

Broader emerging market stocks have also taken a hit, with the MSCI Emerging Markets index down 0.5 percent on Friday. Although the index is up 0.9 percent for the week, it remains 5.6 percent below its Nov. 8 closing price.

Wall Street was closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and trading will end early on Friday.

European markets ended on a positive note, with the Stoxx 600 index gaining 0.3 percent at the close.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major global peers, climbed 0.1 percent to 101.84 early on Friday, after touching 102.05, the highest level since March 2003, on Thursday.

The US currency has been on a tear since Trump's win spurred reflation bets and higher-than-expected Federal Reserve interest rate increases.

Strong US manufacturing and consumer data this week have bolstered that case. The dollar index has risen 0.6 percent this week.

The dollar's strength has pummeled other currencies. It climbed to the highest level since March 28 versus the yen on Thursday, and was up 0.3 percent at 113.68 yen early on Friday. It is up 2.5 percent for the week.

That has proved a boon for Japanese stocks, with the Nikkei 225 advancing 0.5 percent on Friday to the highest level since January. It is on track for a weekly gain of 2.6 percent.

The dollar's surge and nervousness ahead of Italy's constitutional referendum on Dec. 4 have weighed on the euro.

The common currency slumped to the lowest level since March 2015 against the dollar on Thursday, and was little changed in early Asian trade on Friday.

Elsewhere in markets, oil prices held steady, as investors looked to next week's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for clarity on proposed output caps.

US crude futures were flat at $47.92, set to clock a weekly increase of 4.9 percent, building on last week's 5.3 percent jump.

Gold remained under pressure, little changed at $1,182.86 an ounce on Friday, down 2.1 percent this week. It has plunged a whopping 7.2 percent since its close before the US election results were announced.