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Yen eases as BOJ keeps policy steady, Asia stocks mixed

by December 20, 2016 General

By Nichola Saminather

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The Japanese yen edged down on Tuesday after the Bank of Japan held policy steady, shedding some gains made following deadly incidents in Germany and Turkey, while regional stocks were mixed after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s upbeat comments.

The BOJ maintained its pledge to guide short-term rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent, while offering a more upbeat view of the economy than in its Nov. 1 assessment.

Stating that the economy continues to recover moderately as a trend, the central bank signaled its conviction that a generally weak yen and a rebound in overseas demand will lift prospects for a solid recovery.

The U.S. dollar advanced 0.1 percent to 117.335 yen, after closing 0.7 percent lower on Monday.

The greenback has risen 11.6 percent versus the yen since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, on his promises of increased fiscal stimulus. Trump formally won the U.S. presidency on Monday after receiving more than the 270 Electoral College votes required to be elected.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> pared earlier gains to trade little changed. Japan’s Nikkei <.N225>, flat before the BOJ decision, rose 0.1 percent.

Reduced volumes ahead of the Christmas holidays tempered buying in some Asian markets.

China’s CSI 300 index <.CSI300> slid 0.6 percent, and Taiwan <.TWII> shares retreated 0.3 percent, as did Hong Kong <.HSI> stocks.

Wall Street ended higher on Monday, albeit below the session’s highs, as optimism over Yellen’s comments about the U.S. labor market offset some of the risk aversion following the deaths in Germany and Turkey.

“Yellen painted a very positive picture in her commentary overnight,” said James Woods, global investment strategist at Rivkin Securities in Sydney.

“The (Federal Open Market Committee) has done a fantastic job preparing the market for this second and subsequent hikes. Importantly they have continued to stress that the FOMC remains data dependent, only hiking when the underlying fundamentals of the economy support this.”

Still, markets were rattled after a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin Monday evening, killing 12 people and injuring 48 others in what Germany’s interior minister said looked like an attack.

The euro <EUR=EBS>, which slid 0.5 percent to $1.0401 on Monday, recovered 0.1 percent to $1.0413 on Tuesday.

Pressure also came on the euro after the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was shot and killed at an art gallery in Ankara, the capital.

The Turkish lira was steady at 3.5325 per dollar on Tuesday after falling 0.7 percent on Monday. The rouble was also little changed on Tuesday at 61.9048 per dollar. It slumped to as low as 62.0907 per dollar on Monday but recovered to end the day up 0.3 percent at 61.8475.

The dollar index <.DXY>, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global peers, climbed 0.2 percent on Monday after Yellen’s upbeat labor market assessment. It was steady at 103.11 on Tuesday.

Gold <XAU>, which rose 0.4 percent on Monday, was little changed at $1,138.20 on Tuesday.

Oil pulled back as traders began to unwind positions in the run-up to the holiday season.

U.S. crude <CLc1> slid 0.4 percent to $51.91 per barrel after closing up 0.4 percent on Monday.

Global benchmark Brent <LCOc1> slipped 0.2 percent to $54.82.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Eric Meijer and Richard Borsuk)