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Asian shares at 21 month highs, dollar soft on Fed views


´╗┐Asian shares hit 21-month highs on Tuesday while the dollar and U.S. bond yields were on the backfoot on the prospect of a less hawkish than previously expected Federal Reserve policy trajectory. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan . MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.3 percent in its eighth consecutive day of gains with tech-heavy Seoul and Taipei shares . KS11 . TWII hitting two-year highs while Hong Kong's Hang Seng . HSI scaled 1-1/2-year highs. European shares are expected to open slightly higher, with spread-betters seeing a rise of up to 0.1 percent in Britain's FTSE . FTSE, Germany's DAX . GDAXI and France's CAC . FCHI. Japan's Nikkei . N225 dropped 0.3 percent, weighed by financial stocks, which were hurt by lower U.S. yields and exporter stocks, which fell on the yen's gains against the dollar. While Asian shares have been supported by signs of strong global economic growth, concerns about protectionism cast a shadow after financial leaders of the world's biggest economies dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open, acquiescing to an increasingly protectionist United States. Wall Street shares drifted lower on Monday as investors worried that President Donald Trump's plan to cut taxes and boost the economy could take longer than earlier expected."Any fiscal spending by the Trump administration will not come until August at earliest and probably much later. So any economic benefit of that will show up only next year," said a senior trader at a European bank."So the markets are gradually pricing that in, winding back their initial rally after the elections."Although Trump promised in early February to deliver a "phenomenal" tax plan within a few weeks, no such details have been released yet, with many investors now waiting for detailed budget plan expected in mid-May.

In addition, sentiment was hurt after Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey confirmed for the first time that the bureau is investigating possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia."U.S. stocks valuations are getting really expensive, so I expect the market to be capped for now. That also means Japanese shares are unlikely to gain further," said Tatsushi Maeno, senior strategist at Okasan Asset Management. Expectations that the Federal Reserve will have to step up rate hikes to counter inflationary pressure from Trump's stimulus are also waning after the Fed dropped no hints of an acceleration in credit tightening last week. Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans, in one of the first official comments after the Fed raised rates as expected last week, reiterated that message on Monday.

He said that two more interest rate hikes this year were likely, disappointing investors who had anticipated rates to be increased more quickly. Evans's comments helped to bring down the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield US10YT=RR to 2.461 percent, its lowest level in two weeks. It last stood at 2.479 percent. Lower yields undermined the greenback's allure, softening the dollar to three-week lows near 112.26 yen JPY= in early Asian trade. The euro EUR= ticked up to $1.0758, near Friday's six-week high of $1.07825, maintaining its gains made last week after a election defeat for Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, which eased broader fears of a populist drift in European politics. In France, centrist Emmanuel Macron solidified his status as front-runner in the presidential election in a televised debate on Monday."At the moment, worries about the election have subsided a bit after the Dutch elections. But I expect the market to become more nervous near the election, given last year's experiences (with Brexit and the U.S. elections)," said Kazushige Kaida, head of foreign exchange at State Street.

The dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies . DXY =USD stood at 100.24, after hitting a six-week low of 100.02 on Monday. The specter of slower U.S. rate hikes has been helping high-yielding currencies. The Australian dollar AUD=D4 traded at $0.7706, after hitting a 4-1/2-month high of $0.7748 on Monday. It has risen 2.0 percent since the Fed's policy meeting last week. The South African rand ZAR=D4 has gained 4.0 percent since then to a near 1-1/2-year high while the Brazilian real rose 3.2 percent BRL=. Oil prices rose in Asia on expectations that an OPEC-led production cut to prop up the market could be extended. Prices for front-month Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark for oil, gained 0.4 percent to $51.84 per barrel. OPEC members increasingly favor extending the output curb beyond June to balance the market, sources within the group said, although they added that this would require non-OPEC members such as Russia to also step up their efforts.

Uber settles with Pennsylvania regulator following record fine


´╗┐Uber Technologies Inc has reached a settlement with Pennsylvania's taxi regulator to end the ride-sharing company's appeal of a record $11.4 million fine for operating illegally. A notice posted on Tuesday with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania said Uber and the state's Public Utility Commission had reported an agreement in principle to settle the case, which involved the largest fine imposed by that regulator. The appeal was put on hold so a formal agreement between Uber and the PUC could be worked out. Uber spokesman Craig Ewer confirmed the substance of the notice, but declined to provide details about the accord. PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said: "The matter is under review by the commission."

The PUC fined Uber last April after finding that the San Francisco-based company had from February to August 2014 provided 122,998 rides in Pennsylvania without prior approval, and obstructed a state probe into its operations. Though the $11.4 million fine was six times larger than any prior fine imposed by the PUC, it had been reduced from the $49.9 million ordered earlier by two administrative law judges.

The PUC rejected Uber's bid to reconsider the fine on Sept. 1. Uber appealed that decision to the commonwealth court four weeks later. On March 8, Uber said it would stop using its so-called "Greyball" technology, which helped identify and avoid regulators seeking evidence that drivers were evading local laws governing taxi services.

Investors bet on a quiet tech revolution in Europe LONDON It's not banking or mining shares, but rather technology stocks, that have come up trumps in Europe this year and are poised to end the first quarter as the best-performing sector.

Samsung launches Galaxy S8 and dreams of recovery from Note 7 SEOUL/NEW YORK - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd unveiled its Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone as it battles to regain the market leadership it lost to Apple Inc after the embarrassing withdrawal of the fire-prone Note 7s.

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