US Sparks Fears of Trade War as Trump Arrives in Davos

US Sparks Fears of Trade War as Trump Arrives in Davos

"There are benefits of where the dollar is and there are costs of where the dollar is", Mnuchin said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

No local data is scheduled today and Australian markets are closed for the Australia Day holiday, which Ive said leaves investors watching for more comments at the World Economic Forum and awaiting United States economic data overnight.

Adding to the mix, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at a press conference in Davos: "There have always been trade wars".

"We are cautious that the market has failed to price in a sufficient risk premium around trade and a pivot by the Trump administration to increase the rhetoric on "America First" on a global stage", the analysts wrote, adding of President Trump's speech on Friday: "That puts the Davos speech on high alert".

The president's haphazard first year in office has done little to encourage investment, and it has taken some time for Treasury yields to recover following years of ultra-loose monetary policy - particularly as inflation has remained stubbornly low.

Mnuchin surprised reporters when he seemed to express support for a weaker USA dollar, which flies in the face of longstanding US government policy supporting a strong greenback.

On Wednesday, after Mnuchin's remark, the dollar dropped by a cent against the euro, hitting a three-year low of $1.2406.

Ferridge doesn't view Mnuchin's comments as a change in policy signaling a deliberate strategy of weakening the dollar, partly because the remarks echo previous statements. I expect that the pair may fall to the psychologically important level of 1.3000 before a reversal starts.

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A stronger euro, hovering at a three-year peak against the dollar, could hurt the European economy by making its exports less competitive. The greenback had already been on the defensive on trade protectionism worries fanned by Trump's decision to impose steep import tariffs on washing machines and solar panels earlier in the week.

The Commerce Department said the US economy grew 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

And even though Mnuchin tried to clarify his comments, Truman said, "markets don't hear it".

Mnuchin's ambivalence to a weak dollar could also turn into a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment.

One way the Trump administration hopes to improve the USA competitive position in the global marketplace is with corporate tax cuts. In 2001, Paul O'Neill told a German newspaper "we don't follow, as is often said, a policy of a strong dollar", though he then returned to the traditional rhetoric. Lower taxes can stimulate the economy, at least in the short run.

"It's not necessarily a surprise that they want a weaker dollar", Murphy said.

Adding to the protectionist fears, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, also at the Davos summit, said US trade authorities are investigating whether there is a case for taking action over China's infringements of intellectual property.

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