* Dollar off recent lows in Asia, outlook uncertain
* Healthcare vote likely later Friday, to test reflation
* Asia shares mixed, report Trump to examine free trade
* Safe-haven gold fades, oil dogged by supply overhang
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, March 24 The dollar recouped a little
lost ground on Friday amid signs a delayed vote on President
Donald Trump's healthcare bill would go ahead later in the day,
though it remained unclear whether it would pass.
Investors regard the vote as test for the Trump presidency
that could show whether it can muster the backing needed to push
through fiscal measures central to its economic agenda.
European bourses were seen opening a shade firmer while S&P
500 futures added 0.25 percent as investors dipped a toe
back into risk trades after a week of wild mood swings.
Australia bounced back from a tough few days to be up 0.8
percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific
shares outside Japan was all but flat.
Japan's Nikkei added 0.8 percent, encouraged by a
slight softening in the yen. A Reuters poll out on Friday also
showed confidence among Japanese manufacturers rose for a
seventh straight month to a three-year high.
Trump will get a second chance to try to close the deal with
Republican lawmakers on dismantling Obamacare in a high-stakes
vote on a new healthcare bill later in the day.
Some in the markets suspect a failure to pass the bill
could endanger Trump's promises of tax cuts and stimulus so
beloved by Wall Street and U.S. corporates.
"The Trump reflation trade - particularly the equity leg of
it, which has seen U.S. equity indexes roar to record highs –
has arguably been long on optimism and short on substance for
some time now," said analysts at ANZ in a note.
"It comes at a sensitive time for the market, with the
initial post-election exuberance having waned and as it weighs
up political uncertainty, a strong U.S. economy and an
increasingly hawkish Federal Reserve."
Adding to the unease was a Reuters report that the Trump
administration is preparing new executive orders to re-examine
all 14 U.S. free trade agreements, including those in Asia, to
aid American companies.
After falling sharply mid-week, Wall Street had lapsed into
waiting mode on Thursday with the Dow down 0.02 percent.
The S&P 500 lost 0.11 percent and the Nasdaq 0.07
DOLLAR OFF THE FLOOR
As stocks have stalled, bonds rallied. Two-year Treasury
yields have fallen 14 basis points in the past week
or so to stand at 1.27 percent.
At the same time, German yields have risen on speculation
the European Central Bank might begin the long process of rate
normalisation this year. The central bank issued an upbeat
outlook on the Euro zone economy overnight.
The net result was a contraction in the dollar's yield
advantage over the euro, which has seen the single currency
steady at $1.0767 after scoring a six-week top of $1.0828
earlier this week.
The dollar did gain 0.3 percent on the yen to 111.31,
having hit a four-month low of 110.62 the day before. Against a
basket of currencies, it was up 0.2 percent at 99.962
having shed 1.3 percent in the past two weeks.
"The dollar is likely to struggle as global investors
gradually realise that the U.S, can still produce policy
gridlock even with one party holding the White House, Senate and
House," said Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac.
"Moreover, the euro is looking more appealing, with the
growth gap with the U.S. not as wide as previously thought and
the euro having lost some of its political risk premium as
European voters edge away from local Trump wannabes."
In commodity markets, safe-haven spot eased a touch to
$1,243.30 an ounce after hitting three-week high of $1,253.12
Oil prices idled near four-month lows on investor concerns
that OPEC-led supply cuts were not yet reducing record U.S.
U.S. crude inched up 19 cents to $47.89, while Brent
crude added 14 cents to $50.70.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)