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Asian shares grind lower amid vaccine doubts, economic concern

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares fell slightly on Friday, pulling back from a record high hit earlier this week, amid renewed doubts about a highly-anticipated coronavirus vaccine and concern about the economic impact from the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: TV camera men wait for the opening of market in front of a large screen showing stock prices at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.07%. Australian shares were down 0.15%. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.09%.

U.S. S&P 500 e-mini stock futures fell 0.24% in early Asian trade. U.S. financial markets were closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and will trade on a partial schedule later on Friday.

Oil prices looked set to extend their declines from a seven-month high due to signs of oversupply.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca’s coronavirus drug was touted as a “vaccine for the world” due to its inexpensive cost, but the efficacy of the vaccine is now facing more intense scrutiny, which experts say could delay its approval.

Several scientists have raised doubts about the robustness of results showing the shot was 90% effective in a sub-group of trial participants who, by error initially, received a half dose followed by a full dose.

“With global case numbers having now topped 60 million… there is certainly some rough terrain ahead for the global recovery, and that can create economic scarring,” analysts at ANZ Bank wrote in a memo.

MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks was up 0.02% on Friday in Asia, sitting just below a record high reached in the previous session.

Doubts about the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine have placed renewed focus on the current state of the pandemic, which looks grim for many places.

U.S. hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at a record and experts warn that Thanksgiving could lead to further infections and deaths.

More than 20 million people across England will be forced to live under the toughest restrictions even after a national lockdown ends on Dec. 2. Partial lockdowns in some European countries have also raised concern about economic growth.

The European Central Bank’s chief economist highlighted these concerns in dovish comments on Thursday, which pushed European bond yields lower.

The euro, which last bought $1.1910, showed little reaction because currency traders have largely priced in expectations for additional ECB easing next month.

The dollar index was near its lowest in more than two months, but moves were subdued due to the U.S. trading holiday.

U.S. crude dipped 1.71% to $44.93 a barrel.

Fuel demand is falling due to renewed coronavirus lockdowns, but some oil producers are not complying with agreed production cuts, which raises concerns about oversupply.

Spot gold, which is often sought during times of uncertainty, was little changed at $1,809.51 per ounce following a 0.3% gain on Thursday. [GOL/]

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, steadied at $17,180 on Thursday, but it tumbled by 8.4% in the previous session after failing to take out its record high of $19,666.

Bitcoin has rallied around 140% this year, fuelled by demand for riskier assets.

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Mobile hospital for injured Australian wildlife hits the road

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A mobile hospital for injured wildlife such as koalas and kangaroos began a journey on Thursday to its new base in Byron Bay, on Australia’s east coast.

Custom-built by Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital in a 16-metre (52.5-feet) semi-trailer truck, the mobile clinic will treat and rehabilitate native animals hurt and traumatised during wildlife crises across the country.

Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital founder and CEO Dr. Stephen Van Mil said the project was conceived of two years ago, but the devastation of Australia’s disastrous bushfire season last year underscored the need.

“Seeing dozens of injured koalas sitting in laundry baskets waiting for care was heartbreaking,” Van Mil said in a statement.

Since then, a crowd-funding campaign, philanthropic donations, and help from conservation groups have turned the A$700,000 ($515,600) mobile hospital into a reality.

The self-sufficient vehicle has been fitted with veterinary equipment, including ultrasound and X-ray machines, operating and recovery areas, water storage, satellite communications and solar power.

“Being able to work in a mobile hospital means that I can actually help these animals quickly. I can get there and I can give them the treatment that they need,” said wildlife specialist Dr. Bree Talbot, who will be aboard the mobile clinic along with a small team of volunteers and veterinary staff.

“I can give them the medicine and the pain relief and the fluid therapy … and get them back out hopefully sooner rather than later,” she said.

Ongoing costs of A$250,000 to maintain the clinic will be partly borne by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia (WWF), said Darren Grover, the head of the WWF’s Healthy Land and Seascapes group.

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South Korea's LG says will separate affiliates into new conglomerate

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an LG logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s LG Corp said on Thursday its board had decided to restructure its conglomerate LG Group by separating some of its affiliates such as display chip maker Silicon Works Co Ltd to form a new conglomerate next year.

It is the latest in a series of deals and restructuring of South Korea’s family-led conglomerates as they grow in size and go through generational succession. The reorganisation should also help address regulatory pressure to limit intra-group transactions at family-owned conglomerates.

Koo Bon-joon will be chief executive of the new holding company, according to LG Corp’s regulatory filing. He will take the reins of those affiliates from his nephew Koo Kwang-mo, who took over as LG Group chairman in 2018 after his father passed away.

LG Group is South Korea’s fourth-largest conglomerate and its core businesses include consumer electronics, chemicals, household products and cosmetics, as well as parts such as batteries and displays used in GM, Tesla and Apple products.

Affiliates that will be separated in May 2021 also include trading company LG International Corp, LG Hausys Ltd, maker of interior parts for housing and automobiles, and unlisted chemical manufacturer LG MMA Corp, the regulatory filing said.

The reorganisation also includes a spin-off of unlisted Pantos Logistics Co Ltd. The logistics arm generated 64% of its 2019 revenue from other affiliates of LG Group including LG Electronics and LG Chem, according to its regulatory filing.

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Alvarez & Marsal confirms withdrawing from Lebanon forensic audit

DUBAI/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) confirmed on Thursday it had withdrawn from a forensic audit of Lebanon’s central bank as it had not received the information required to carry out the task.

FILE PHOTO: A view of Lebanon’s Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

The decision, first announced by Lebanon’s caretaker finance minister on Nov. 20, is a blow to Lebanon as the audit is a key demand of foreign donors to help it exit a financial meltdown, the country’s worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

“Due to the insufficient provision of information, A&M is unable to complete its review and has formally notified the Ministry of Finance of its decision to terminate the engagement,” the consultancy said.

Its decision came shortly after the finance minister had on Nov. 5 announced a three-month extension to secure the data required after the central bank declined to hand over all the information, citing bank secrecy rules.

“In meetings held on 4 and 5 November the Ministry of Finance and Banque du Liban confirmed that the information A&M requested would not be forthcoming in the near future,” the consultancy said.

“We remain available should the Government of Lebanon wish to consider re-engaging A&M under circumstances more conducive to a successful completion of the mandate,” it added.

The Finance Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

President Michel Aoun has pledged to revive the audit, blaming “interest-driven roadblocks” for derailing it and saying it is needed so Lebanon does not become a “failed state in the eyes of the international community”.

This week he asked parliament to move on the matter and the parliament speaker has set a session for Friday to discuss the issue. A parliamentary bloc has submitted a proposed law to temporarily lift bank secrecy rules solely for the audit.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his justice minister have criticised the central bank for using bank secrecy to justify withholding information.

The central bank has declined to comment on the A&M withdrawal. It previously said it provided its own accounts for the audit and the government should submit state accounts to “spare the central bank from violating legally binding bank secrecy laws”.

The audit is also a main demand of the International Monetary Fund, whose talks with the caretaker government stalled over inaction on reforms to tackle endemic corruption and waste.

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World News

Dollar in holding pattern but traders warn of further declines

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar was on the defensive on Thursday as downbeat U.S. economic data and optimism about coronavirus vaccines prompted investors to seek out riskier assets tied to global commodities and emerging markets.

FILE PHOTO: George Washington is seen with printed medical mask on the one Dollar banknotes in this illustration taken, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The British pound traded near a more than two-month high against the dollar as investors awaited details on trade talks between Britain and the European Union this week.

The dollar’s fall has been so rapid that it could rebound in the short term, market watchers said, but some investors still expect a decline over the longer term as they shift positions in expectation that the coronavirus outbreak will wane next year.

“A China-led recovery in the global economy and commodities should benefit commodity currencies,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“The outlook is good, but we are reaching levels where authorities might feel some concern. Other emerging market currencies with good fundamentals should benefit.”

Against the euro, the dollar stood at $1.1926, close to its weakest in more than two months.

Sterling bought $1.3387, which is near its strongest level since Sept. 2. The pound held steady at 89.06 pence per euro.

The dollar was little changed at 104.31 yen.

Investors have rushed to riskier currencies and emerging-market assets in recent weeks after positive data on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and signs of stability in U.S. politics, which has weighed broadly on the dollar.

Sentiment for the greenback took a hit after data on Wednesday showed weekly U.S. jobless claims rose more than expected and personal incomes fell.

Some economists said more job losses are likely as many U.S. states reinforce restrictions on businesses to curb a spread of coronavirus infections.

The dollar index against a basket of six other currencies was near the lowest in more than two months.

Trading in the dollar was subdued because U.S. financial markets are closed later on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, fell to $17,895 after a failed attempt to breach its record high of $19,666 from December 2017.

The Australian dollar traded near its highest since September, supported by improving risk appetite and strong Chinese demand for the commodities that Australia exports.

The New Zealand dollar traded near its strongest level in more than two years.

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Biden urges safe Thanksgiving amid pandemic; Trump pardons ex-aide Flynn

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden pleaded with Americans on Wednesday to take steps to remain safe over the Thanksgiving holiday as COVID-19 cases soar, while President Donald Trump pardoned a former aide who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Biden gave a presidential-style speech acknowledging people’s fatigue with restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, but urged them to exercise caution as caseloads surge.

“I know the country has grown weary of the fight. We need to remember – we’re at war with the virus, not with one another,” Biden said as he urged Americans to forgo the type of big family gatherings normally associated with Thursday’s holiday, wear protective masks and maintain social distancing.

The Democratic former vice president again said he would take immediate steps to address the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office on Jan. 20. During the campaign, Biden accused Trump, a Republican, of panicking and surrendering in the face of a public health crisis.

Shortly after Biden spoke, Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador in Washington. [nL1N2IB2JX]

It marked the latest instance in which Trump has used his power of executive clemency to benefit a friend or associate.

Prominent Democrats responded quickly and angrily.

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“President Trump’s pardoning of Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with a foreign adversary, is an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

More than 261,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with the daily toll on Tuesday surpassing 2,000 for the first time since May, as infections and hospitalizations surge nationally. The United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Biden said the United States faced “a long hard winter” but that it was during the most difficult circumstances that “the soul of our nation has been forged.”

He said he hoped the recent positive news on vaccine development – the first shots potentially could be made available to some Americans within weeks – would serve as an incentive for people to take simple steps to get the virus under control.

Since winning the Nov. 3 election, Biden has offered a message of healing and reconciliation after Trump’s tumultuous term, while the president still refuses to concede and falsely claimed again on Wednesday that Biden’s victory was stolen.

Without mentioning Trump, Biden addressed the messy aftermath of the vote.

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“Our democracy was tested this year,” Biden said. “In America, we have full and fair and free elections and then we honor the results. The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”

ECONOMIC APPOINTMENTS

Biden plans next week to name his choices for some important positions in his administration, including his economic team, his communications director, Kate Bedingfield, said. They are expected to include former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary.

Trump’s administration gave the green light on Monday to formal transition efforts even as he continues to make unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud. As a result, Biden will begin receiving presidential daily intelligence briefings.

Bedingfield said Biden’s team had been encouraged by the “professional and welcoming response” of civil servants.

Trump has waged a failed legal battle to overturn the election results. The outgoing president on Wednesday canceled a trip to accompany his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to a meeting of Republican state legislators in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Giuliani repeated his unsubstantiated allegations of voting fraud.

Trump spoke to the participants by speaker phone, repeating his debunked claims that the election had been stolen, drawing cheers from the partisan crowd.

“This election was lost by the Democrats. They cheated. It was a fraudulent election,” Trump said, without offering evidence.

In addition to beating Trump by 306-232 in the Electoral College, Biden won the nationwide popular vote by more than 6.1 million ballots.

Bedingfield called the Gettysburg event “a sideshow.” State and federal officials have said there is no evidence of large-scale fraud.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro rejected Trump’s claims.

“The sitting president’s remarks today were devoid of reality,” Shapiro, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “The election is over. Pennsylvania has certified results & declared Joe Biden the winner of our Commonwealth. Lying through a cell phone at a fake hearing changes nothing.”

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Stocks dip on U.S. jobs data; dollar down, oil up

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks ended near the previous session record high on Wednesday as Wall Street bumped up against disappointing job market data, while oil continued to rise and the dollar weakened further.

The U.S. dollar has lost some of its safe-haven luster as traders turn to riskier assets, including some funded in other currencies, following positive news about COVID-19 vaccines and a seemingly normalizing U.S. transition of power.

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s reported nomination to Treasury secretary has emboldened those risk bets and further weighed on the dollar.

“From here, the Fed will prove a mere auxiliary to maximize fiscal impact by ensuring cheap funding,” said John Hardy, head of FX strategy at Saxo Bank.

“The long-term implications of the Yellen nomination are distinctly dollar negative.”

The dollar index fell 0.147%, with the euro up 0.24% to $1.1916.

The Japanese yen was flat versus the greenback to 104.44 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $1.3383, up 0.20% on the day.

On Wall Street, a surprise jump in weekly jobless claims added to signs the recovery in the labor market was stalling as the United States battled a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks was last flat after renewed demand for shares earlier pushed it to a record high of 622.12.

The Wall St. entrance to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in the financial district in New York, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The rally in global stocks is set to continue for at least six months, a Reuters poll forecast on Wednesday.

But the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 173.77 points, or 0.58%, to 29,872.47, the S&P 500 lost 5.76 points, or 0.16%, to 3,629.65 and the Nasdaq Composite added 57.08 points, or 0.47%, to 12,094.40.

“The question is, who wins the battle: the vaccines, or the rising cases in the short term?” said Christopher C. Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management.

Daily U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 for the first time since May, with hospitals in parts of the country already full.

A separate Reuters survey, meanwhile, found that optimism around vaccine developments and expectations of a recovery in corporate confidence and profitability should push European stocks to near record highs next year.

On Wednesday the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.08% while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.50% after touching a 29-year high.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.57% lower, with Chinese shares capped by worries about rising debt defaults.

The job market data, an unexpected rise in applications for unemployment insurance, weighed on Treasury yields.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 1/32 in price to yield 0.8832%, from 0.882% late on Tuesday.

“I think a lot of people got ahead of themselves imagining that the recovery was taking shape. To me the recovery isn’t taking shape until we have a viable vaccine,” said Justin Lederer, Treasury analyst and trader at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Data showing a surprise drop in weekly U.S. crude inventories extended a rally in oil prices driven by hopes that a COVID-19 vaccine will boost fuel demand.

“Crude oil prices are trading at their highest levels since early March, supported by positive market sentiment as a result of vaccine news and strong oil demand in Asia,” said UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

“We maintain our bullish outlook for next year and target Brent to hit $60 per barrel at the end of 2021,” he added.

U.S. financial markets will be closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. bonds and stocks will trade on a partial schedule on Friday.

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Tesla market value crosses $500 billion in meteoric rally

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(Reuters) – Tesla Inc blew past $500 billion in market value on Tuesday as investors snapped up its shares in the run-up to its debut in the S&P 500, extending a meteoric rally that has seen it surge over 500% this year.

The California electric carmaker’s stock rose nearly 5%, putting its market capitalization at $519 billion.

Tesla is Wall Street’s seventh most valuable company, just behind Berkshire Hathaway , and its shares have rallied over 30% since Nov. 16, when it was announced Tesla would join the S&P 500 benchmark.

Index funds that replicate the S&P 500 will have to buy more than $50 billion worth of Tesla’s stock ahead of its inclusion to the index on Dec. 21. Additionally, Goldman Sachs estimated last week that actively managed mutual funds could buy another $8 billion of Tesla shares after it is added.

Tesla has become by far the world’s most valuable automaker, despite production that is a fraction of Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen or General Motors Co.

Shares of other electric vehicle (EV) makers have also rallied in recent months as President-elect Joe Biden made boosting EVs a top priority during his campaign.

Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc fell 4.9% on Tuesday, trimming its gain in November to 72%.

“One of the core underpinnings of the Biden platform will be around pushing clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles with hopes of accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles and public charging outlets by 2030,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a research note.

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Business

Global stocks rise as investors cheer Biden transition, vaccine progress

WASHINGTON/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Stocks gained on Tuesday as the formal go-ahead for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to begin his transition added to an already brighter mood from progress made on COVID-19 vaccines and the prospects for a speedy global economic revival.

FILE PHOTO: TV camera men wait for the opening of market in front of a large screen showing stock prices at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

European markets appeared set to extend optimism in Asian and U.S. equities, with Euro Stoxx 50 futures and FTSE futures up 0.52% and 0.42%, respectively.

U.S. General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden on Monday that he can formally begin the hand-over process.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had told his team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols”, an indication he was moving toward a transition after weeks of legal challenges to the election results.

U.S. stocks also got an added boost after reports that Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, to become the next Treasury Secretary. Futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.73% in afternoon Asian trade.

The upbeat backdrop helped MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advance 0.19% in the afternoon trade. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 1.26 percent stronger, touching its highest level in almost nine months, with energy stocks leading the pack.

Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.47%, after reaching 26,186.53 by 0204 GMT, its highest since May 1991, with energy, real estate and financial shares leading the advance. Seoul’s Kospi was 0.54% higher while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was steady, up 0.03%.

Chinese blue-chips were an outlier, edging down 0.85%, as investors booked profits following recent strong gains.

Some analysts say a Biden presidency, which could mean more negotiation room for Washington and Beijing, would not make a big difference for China’s equities market, as they expected little change in broad U.S. policy toward China.

The progress made on COVID-19 vaccines, which had underpinned Wall Street overnight, helped keep risk appetite elevated as it boosted optimism about a quicker revival for the global economy.

AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine, cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than its rivals, could be as much as 90% effective.

“Traders are still buying into vaccine news clearance, as the end of the pandemic becomes imaginable. Recent U.S. data restored a bit of confidence that the economy is holding up, despite surging COVID-19 infections and a painful lack of fresh fiscal stimulus,” said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst for IG Australia.

“And the news of Yellen’s possible nomination to the role of U.S. Treasury Secretary potentially puts a very Fed-friendly uber-dove at the reins of fiscal policy.”

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, nudged down to 92.406 while the euro gained 0.11% on the day to $1.1853.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.12% overnight, the S&P 500 gained 0.56% while the Nasdaq Composite added only 0.22%, underperforming as traders rotated away from big tech names.

Oil prices added to last week’s gains as traders anticipated the vaccine news would spur a recovery in energy demand.

“Investors are ignoring near-term headwinds, chief among which are surging global COVID infections, and instead looking ahead to next summer,” said PVM analyst Stephen Brennock.

The United States surpassed 255,000 deaths and 12 million infections since the pandemic began, with daily infections at a record near 170,000 and daily deaths around 1,500.

U.S. crude advanced 1.28% to $43.61 per barrel and Brent was at $46.58, up 1.13% on Tuesday, while an index of commodity prices touched its highest since early March.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year notes rose slightly to 0.8619%.

Spot gold fell to $1,826.86 an ounce while U.S. gold futures dropped 0.46% to $1,829.30 an ounce.

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Dollar bounces on strong data, index hits technical support

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar bounced off an almost three-month low against a basket of currencies on Monday as data showed that U.S. business activity expanded at the fastest rate in more than five years in November, and after the index hit strong technical support.

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Dollar banknote is seen in this illustration taken May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

IHS Markit’s manufacturing and services sector purchasing managers’ indexes both topped even the most optimistic forecasts in a Reuters poll that predicted both would level off, offering a counterweight to data suggesting economic momentum was slackening after the third-quarter’s torrid rebound from an historic plunge last spring.

“The Dollar turned broadly higher in N.Y. on Monday, with the better Markit PMI outcomes providing the main driver,” said Ronald Simpson, managing director, global currency analysis at Action Economics.

The dollar index was last up 0.18% at 92.482, after earlier dropping to 92.013, the lowest since Sept. 1. The euro dipped 0.10% to $1.1844.

The greenback jumped 0.63% against the safe haven Japanese yen to 104.475 yen.

Stronger risk appetite dented the appeal of the U.S. currency early on Monday after AstraZeneca said that its COVID-19 vaccine could be about 90% effective and it would prepare to submit data to authorities around the world that have a framework for conditional or early approval.

A conclusive break on the dollar index below support at around 92 could usher in new weakness, analysts said.

Matthew Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak said that he would wait for confirmation that any break is significant before assuming further weakness, but added that if the index does fall below 92 “in any meaningful way, it’s going to be very bearish for the greenback on a technical basis”.

Many analysts see the dollar as likely to underperform next year when global growth is expected to improve as vaccines against the novel coronavirus are rolled out.

“That spells dollar weakness for us given the dollar’s countercyclical characteristics,” said Vassili Serebriakov, an FX strategist at UBS in New York.

The British pound may be among the best performers against the greenback as it benefits from faster international growth and moves past Brexit worries that have weighed on the currency.

“We think sterling will benefit both from the global cyclical recovery as it tends to perform well in growth upswings and it will also benefit from moving closer to a Brexit deal, which we don’t think the market is fully priced for,” said Serebriakov.

Sterling was last 0.29% up at $1.3322. It was boosted by optimism over COVID-19 vaccines and as investors bet Britain and the European Union would clinch a Brexit trade deal.

The dollar index dipped slightly after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to become the next Treasury Secretary.

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