WORLD stocks and the euro edged higher on Thursday as US lawmakers prepared to resume negotiations to avoid a fiscal crunch, while the yen hit a two-year low on expectations a new government in Tokyo will push for aggressive monetary stimulus.
President Barack Obama will try to revive budget crisis talks, which stalled last week, when he returns to Washington on Thursday after cutting short his Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
In a sign there may be a way to break the deadlock, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner urged the Democrat-controlled Senate to act to pull back from the so-called "fiscal cliff" and offered to at least consider any plan the upper chamber produced.
The MSCI global index was up 0.2%, while US stocks opened nearly flat. Japan’s Nikkei had earlier hit a 21-month high, amid signs the country’s authorities are preparing to ease policy considerably.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 6.01 points, or 0.05%, at 13,108.58. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 1.07 points, or 0.08%, at 1,418.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.55 points, or 0.05%, at 2,988.60.
"As we’ve seen this year, the market really trades on the last headline or the last sound bite that you get in spite of fundamental indicators," said Keith Bliss, senior vice-president at Cuttone & Co in New York.
"For this week, it’s been all about when they are going to have a conversation and what that conversation is going to be like."
European shares were up 0.2% as trading resumed after the Christmas holiday break.
Economists warn that the "fiscal cliff" of higher taxes and spending cuts, which are worth $600bn and set to kick in from January, could push the world’s largest economy into recession, dragging other countries with it.
The dollar rose to ¥85,92, its highest since August 2010. It was last up 0.4% on the day at ¥85,91 with option barriers cited at ¥86 and stop loss buy orders above ¥86,10.
Investors accelerated their yen sales after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his newly formed government would pursue a bold monetary policy, a flexible fiscal policy and a growth strategy to encourage private investment.
The yen has now fallen roughly 10.5% versus the dollar in 2012, its biggest annual drop since 2005. At the same time Japan’s benchmark Nikkei is now up 22% for the year.
"Yen weakness, based on expectations that the new Japanese government will succeed in driving the dollar to ¥90 with a combination of more aggressive monetary and fiscal policy, is offering support to other currencies," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.
The euro, meanwhile, rose for a second straight session and traded above $1.32 for eight consecutive days partly on position adjustment going into the end of the year and a growing view that eurozone debt tensions have eased.
In commodity markets, London copper rose 1.7% to a one-week high of $7,945.25 a ton after some positive data from China, the world’s top copper buyer whose economy is now a key driver of global growth.
Profits earned by China’s industrial companies jumped 22.8% in November from a year ago, accelerating from October’s 20.5%, Beijing reported. "People are hopeful that China’s economy will recover next year," said Zhang Ao, an analyst at Minmetals Futures.