Dollar loses steam versus yen as trade deal, Brexit hopes face reality check

By Tomo Uetake

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The dollar hovered below 2-1/2-month highs against the yen on Tuesday, failing to extend recent gains as optimism over trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies and for an orderly British exit from the European Union started to fade.

In early Asian trade, the dollar was steady at 108.35 against the yen, still not far from its 2-1/2-month high of 108.63 yen marked on Friday.

The euro also stood flat at $ 1.1026 () versus the greenback, off Friday’s three-week high of $ 1.1062.

Although markets initially welcomed the “Phase 1” trade deal between the United States and China that President Donald Trump outlined last week, a lack of details kept many investors cautious.

“Media reports suggest China wants another high-level meeting later this month to finalize Friday’s agreement, suggesting that not all the details are nailed down,” said Alex Stanley, senior interest rate strategist at National Australia Bank.

“Market participants are conscious that previous U.S.-China ‘agreements’ have subsequently broken down amidst misunderstandings among the two sides.” 

A Bloomberg report on Monday, citing sources, said China wants more talks as soon as the end of October to hammer out the details of Trump’s phase 1 deal before Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to sign it.

The negotiation between the UK and the European Union over Britain’s exit also looked equally fleeting.

Sterling slipped from a three-month high touched on Friday as last week’s euphoria gave way to doubts over whether a timely Brexit deal could be clinched. The pound was last quoted at $ 1.2604 versus the dollar, little changed on the day.

A deal to smooth Britain’s departure from the EU hung in the balance on Monday after diplomats indicated the bloc wanted more concessions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said a full agreement was unlikely this week.

Johnson says he wants to strike an exit deal at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday to allow an orderly departure on Oct. 31. If an agreement is not possible, he says he will lead the United Kingdom out of the club it joined in 1973 without a deal – even though parliament has passed a law saying he cannot do so.

The lira showed limited reaction after Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey, but the currency stayed near seven-week lows against the dollar on concerns about a fallout from the country’s incursion in northern Syria.

In early Asia, the lira stood at 5.9239 per dollar , after having weakened some 0.8% on Monday.

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Atwood says ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ got much closer to reality, prompting sequel

© Reuters. Author Margaret Atwood holds up her new novel The Testaments during the launch at a book store in London, Britain © Reuters. Author Margaret Atwood holds up her new novel The Testaments during the launch at a book store in London, Britain

LONDON (Reuters) – Canadian author Margaret Atwood said a deterioration in women’s rights in some parts of the world including in the United States prompted her to write a sequel to her best-selling 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The novel, made into an award-winning television series in 2017, presents a totalitarian future in the state of Gilead (NASDAQ:), where the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude as “handmaids” to repopulate a world facing environmental disaster.

“For years and years people were saying will there be a sequel, please write a sequel, tell us what happened, and I always said I can’t do that,” Atwood told British broadcaster the BBC in an interview.

“But then a couple of things happened. Instead of going away from Gilead as I thought had been happening in the 1990s, we started going back towards Gilead in a number of places in the world including the United States.”

Recent moves to curtail access to abortion in the United States have caused huge division and galvanised women’s rights activists.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who was elected in 2016, has said he opposes abortions in most cases and he has joined many of his fellow Republicans in seeking to limit them.

Many doctors and rights groups are fighting these efforts as harmful to women’s health and in breach of a constitutional right to abortion.

Atwood said she was already conceptualizing a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” when Trump was elected. At the time, the television series based on her novel was being filmed.

“The frame around the show changed, and we knew at that moment it would be viewed differently, which it was. So instead of fantasy — ha ha it will never happen — it got much closer to reality, because of the kinds of people backing Trump,” Atwood said.

The series helped the original novel shoot back up the bestseller lists, and made the handmaid’s uniform of a long dark red cloak and large white bonnet a symbol of female protest and resistance.

Fans gathered in London at midnight on Tuesday to hear Atwood read from her new book, hailing it as a timely and necessary response to an increasingly menacing world for women.

“The world in some ways is becoming a worse place for women and particularly in the United States and so this is very current, and very relevant and very necessary,” said Anne Enith-Cooper, 57, who attended the launch.

Another fan, 40-year-old Stacey Morris, said: “My daughter is 12 and she’s just starting to understand feminism and the importance of being a woman… I’d really like for her to read this in the future and to be able to share this with her.”

Asked if she was nervous about the huge anticipation of her new book, Atwood told the BBC: “There is that feeling that you have – a lot of fanfare, the mountain roars and out comes this mouse. Will they say “what?”, “is that what all this fuss has been about?”

“You do have to point out it is a book, it is not regime change, it is not something that is going to physically impact the lives of many people, it is not riots in Moscow.”

“The Testaments” has already landed Atwood a nomination for one of the publishing world’s top accolades, the Booker Prize.

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