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Dollar drops, as bitcoin nears $50,000

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Stock markets posted mixed results, the dollar retreated and oil steadied Tuesday, while bitcoin closed in on $50,000 for the first time as investors reacted to US stimulus and Covid vaccine developments.

Asia’s main stock indices closed higher, with Tokyo posting a 30-year high, while Europe was largely stable around the half-way stage.

Wall Street ended at new heights overnight but the dollar hit a near three-month low against the British pound on Tuesday.

While stocks are benefitting from expectations of a strong economic rebound, optimism is being curtailed by delays to the huge US stimulus plan.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue bill is also seen as adding to global inflation worries, which are starting to be fuelled by rising oil prices and the prospect of large consumer spending post lockdowns.

While contributing to dollar weakness, the inflation outlook is helping gold, a traditional store of value.

“One can’t help that for all of this optimism, the real elephant in the room is what happens if oil prices continue to rise at their current rate,” noted Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Benchmark crude contract Brent North Sea held around 13-month highs above $60 on Tuesday thanks to surging demand expectations as economies reopen.

“Oil’s fundamentals are looking strong again on both (the) supply and demand side,” said Edward Moya, analyst at Oanda trading group.

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“Despite demand being down about five million barrels year-over-year, optimism is high that vaccine rollouts will have key parts of the global economy return to normal.”

Bitcoin has meanwhile pushed to a new record-high of $48,215.83 after winning a huge boost Monday from news that Elon Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla had invested $1.5 billion in the cryptocurrency.

Axi strategist Stephen Innes said that market sentiment in general was buoyed also “by an upbeat set of earnings from the holiday season and vaccine optimism”.

The inoculation drive “provides the ultimate recovery safety net that will allow people to participate on all those pre-Covid activities like the simple pleasures of going to a movie or having a meal out”, he added.

In another sign of upbeat times, crisis-hit Japanese carmaker Nissan upgraded its full-year forecast for the second straight quarter, as the global auto industry shows signs of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

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