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Dollar recovers on measured U.S. response to N.Korea missile test

The dollar came off a 2-1/2-year low and world stocks rose on Wednesday after the United States’ measured response to North Korea’s missile test soothed jittery investors who turned their focus to positive economic data.

Flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Harvey raised the risk of fuel shortages and pushed gasoline futures to their highest since mid-2015, but elsewhere the mood was sanguine.

Wall Street was set for gains on Wednesday, with stock futures pointing to a 0.05 percent rise, following strong sessions in Europe and Asia.

European and Asian stocks reversed losses from the day before when investors were spooked by Pyongyang’s firing of a ballistic missile over Japan.

Fears that this could trigger an aggressive response receded on Wednesday after the United Nations – in a statement drafted by the United States – condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch but held back any threat of new sanctions.

Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.

“Instead of the (U.S.) President responding to the escalation via Twitter, as has happened on many recent occasions, the White House issued an official statement to condemn the action,” said IronFX analyst Charalambos Pissouros.

“This may have been interpreted by investors as a sign that the US will approach the situation in a more measured and diplomatic manner, as opposed to raining down ‘fire and fury’,” he said.

He was referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks earlier this month in which he said he would respond with “fire and fury” if North Korea persisted in threatening his country.

North Korean media reports on the launch also lacked their usual claims of technical advances, indicating the test may not have succeeded as planned.

The dollar recovered from a four-month low, rising 0.3 percent against a basket of currencies and 0.1 percent against the Japanese yen.

The recovery in the greenback had begun during Tuesday’s U.S. trading session, with data showing U.S. consumer confidence hitting a five-month high and house prices rising again.

“A series of strong economic data reminded traders and investors that the (Federal Reserve) is on course to shrink its balance sheet and lift rates again,” said Markus Allenspach, an analyst at Julius Baer.

The yield on U.S. 10-year Treasuries was back up at 2.13 percent, having sunk below 2.10 on Tuesday for the first time since the day after the 2016 presidential election.

In Europe, the pan-European STOXX 600 gained 0.6 percent, recovering nearly all the ground lost in the previous session and banking stocks – which had led the risk-averse move lower on Tuesday – were also up 0.6 percent.

This followed gains in Asia: MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.6 percent while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.7 percent.

Euro zone government bond yields, which fell to fresh lows on Tuesday, edged up on Wednesday as higher than forecast inflation in Spain was expected to be followed by similar data in Germany, defying the euro’s recent strength.

Crude oil slid and gasoline futures touched their highest in over two years on Wednesday as flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Harvey shut over a fifth of U.S. refineries, curbing demand for crude while raising the risk of fuel shortages.

U.S. gasoline futures rose 5.8 percent to $1.8874, bringing gains this week to well over 10 percent.

A rise in crude inventories as a result of refinery shutdowns, however, weighed on oil prices.

U.S. crude futures fell 0.6 percent to $46.17 a barrel, after touching a five-week low on Tuesday.

Global benchmark Brent slipped 0.5 percent to $51.67.

Spot gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,310.86 an ounce on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the precious metal jumped to its highest since Trump was elected U.S. president. (Reuters)

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