European stocks drifted higher Thursday amid renewed volatility in the U.S. dollar after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last interest rate decision reveal underlying concerns over Trump administration plans and authorities in China appeared to underpin the value of the offshore yuan.
Britain's FTSE 100 gained 23 points in the first 30 minutes of trading to reach 7,207 at 08:45 a.m. GMT, led by a 3.3% gain for U.K. housebuilder Persimmon (PSMMY) , which posted an 8% increase in 2016 revenue earlier Thursday and said full-year profits would likely beat market expectations. Germany's DAX index and France's CAC 40 were little changed from Wednesday's closing levels, as was the region-wide Stoxx 500 Index at 365.14 points.
Much of the market's focus Thursday, however, has been the performance of the U.S. dollar, which fell around 1% in overnight trading amid one of the biggest surges on record for the offshore yuan. The move lifted the currency around 1% against the greenback to 6.7989 and put downward pressure on the dollar index and boosted the yen in foreign exchange trading.
The whipsawed dollar index, a measure of its strength against a basket of six global currencies, went from a near 14-year high on Tuesday to a three-week low of 101.74 by the start of European trading, only to gain 0.25% to trade at 102.25 by 08:45 a.m. GMT.
That said, a stronger-than-expected reading for private sector economic activity in China, which showed a service sector reading of 53.4, the highest in 17 months, helped boost regional benchmarks outside of Japan for an eighth consecutive session.
The region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index rose 1.27% to 437.01, contrasting a 0.37% decline for the Nikkei 225, which fell amid a concurrent rise in the yen, hitting the value of export-orientated shares.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 all closed in the green on Wednesday, with the Dow coming within 100 points of finally reaching the elusive 20,000 milestone.
One significant event during Wednesday's session was the afternoon release of the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting, which hinted at the possibility of getting more aggressive should fiscal stimulus ramp up.
However, even amid the broadly hawkish tone of the minutes, Fed policymakers noted three caveats to their assumption of faster rate hikes: uncertain fiscal support from the incoming administration of President Donald Trump, unwarranted appreciation of the U.S. dollar and the erection of trade barriers that would slow economic growth.
The underlying concerns helped keep bond yields low in Asia trading, with 30-year U.S. Treasury securities holding at a four-week low of 3.028%. Benchmark 10-year German bund yields fell 2 basis points to 0.26%.
Early indications from U.S. equities suggest a weaker start to trading on Wall Street, with a 16.5 point decline for the Dow, a 6.5 point dip for the S&P 500 and a 6 point slide for the Nasdaq.