Dollar weaker in Asia as US, Japan fail to seal trade deal



TOKYO–The dollar weakened in Asia Thursday as the United States and Japan failed to break a deadlock holding up a Pacific-wide trade deal, with U.S. President Barack Obama urging Tokyo to take “bold steps” to reach agreement. The greenback changed hands at 102.30 in Tokyo, down from 102.50 yen in New York Wednesday. The euro was at US$1.3822 and 141.40 yen, against US$1.3816 and 141.61 yen in U.S. trade, where the single currency won support from an upbeat report on eurozone business activity. Against other Asia-Pacific currencies the dollar was at NT$30.30, unchanged from Wednesday, while it edged up to 44.66 Philippine pesos from 44.63 pesos.

The greenback eased to SG$1.2569 from SG$1.2577, to 11,625.00 Indonesian rupiah from 11,655.00 rupiah, to 1,039.25 South Korean won from 1,039.45 won, and to 32.34 Thai baht from 32.38 baht. The Australian dollar fell to 92.91 U.S. cents from 93.21 cents, while the Chinese yuan fetched 16.40 yen against 16.42 yen. Obama, who arrived in Tokyo Wednesday on the first leg of a four-nation tour, held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Thursday morning. Among the top items on his agenda was moving ahead on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Talks over the proposed pact — which encompasses 12 nations including the U.S. and Japan and about 40 percent of the global economy — have been held up as Tokyo and Washington locked horns over key details, including Japanese tariffs on agricultural products. Top negotiators from both sides have spent days seeking a breakthrough over the dispute, which will entail painful political choices that could inflame anti-free trade advocates on both sides of the Pacific. After a summit with Abe, Obama told a joint press conference that “now is the time for bold steps.” He added: “I think it’s fair to say that there are a certain sectors of the Japanese economy, the agriculture sector, the auto sector, in which market access has been restricted historically.” He added that those stumbling blocks “at some point have to be resolved … (and) I believe that point is now.” Japanese economy minister Akira Amari is scheduled to talk to reporters later Thursday after holding the latest round of meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in Tokyo. The dollar also faced pressure after U.S. new-home sales dived 14.5 percent in March from a year earlier, the second successive month of slower sales.