TOKYO–The dollar hovered around eight-month highs against the yen in Asia Wednesday, powered by upbeat U.S. manufacturing data, as the Bank of Japan kicked off a two-day policy meeting. In Tokyo the greenback bought 105.06 yen, its highest level since January, after climbing as high as 105.30 yen earlier in the day. It bought 105.10 yen late in New York. The euro weakened to US$1.3129 and 137.85 yen from US$1.3132 and 138.02 yen, as investors turn their focus to a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting. The dollar’s rise came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new cabinet was announced.
The market friendly appointments were in line with media reports, which had sent stocks higher and the yen lower on hopes a new minister in charge of Japan’s bond-heavy public pension fund would shift more of its assets into equities. On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management said activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector picked up pace in August to its best level since August 2011. The figures were the latest to suggest that the world’s number one economy is cementing a recovery, with investors now turning to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book regional economies report and U.S. jobs data on Friday. At the same time the Fed is being urged in some quarters to raise interest rates — which would lift the dollar — as the economy shows regular signs of getting back on track. The dollar was mostly higher against other Asia-Pacific currencies. It strengthened to SG$1.2545 from SG$1.2524 on Tuesday, to 32.08 Thai baht from 32.06 baht, to 11,800.90 Indonesian rupiah from 11,726.30 rupiah, to 1,020.59 South Korean won from 1,017.71 won, and to 43.68 Philippine pesos from 43.62 pesos. The U.S. unit was edged down to 60.58 Indian rupees from 60.60 rupees. The Australian dollar slipped to 92.86 U.S. cents from 92.95 cents as the country’s second-quarter economic growth slowed, while the Chinese yuan rose to 17.05 yen from 17.02 yen.