November 20, 2019 / 3:50 PM / 15 days ago

FOREX-Dollar firmer as trade tensions support; Fed minutes due

* U.S. angers China after Senate passes Hong Kong rights bill

* Pound weaker on the day (New throughout, updates rates and adds comments post-U.S. market open; new byline, changes dateline from London)

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The dollar edged higher on Wednesday as worsening U.S.-China relations supported demand for the safe-haven greenback even as investors awaited the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s October policy meeting for clues to the path of future U.S. interest rates.

Investors, who in recent weeks had grown optimistic that Washington and Beijing would sign a so-called “phase one” deal this month to scale back their 16-month-long trade war, were worried by a hardening of the trade war rhetoric from both sides.

The United States would raise tariffs on Chinese imports if no deal is reached with Beijing to end a trade war, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, threatening an escalation of the spat that has damaged economic growth worldwide.

The mood in markets was further soured after the U.S. Senate angered China by passing a bill requiring annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy and warning Beijing against suppressing protesters. China demanded the United States stop interfering in its internal affairs and said it would retaliate.

The dollar index, which compares the dollar against six major currencies, was up 0.06% at 97.914. The index rose as high as 98.038 earlier in the session.

“It is the same theme that is coming back today, which is essentially the trade tensions between the U.S. and China,” said Minh Trang, senior FX trader at Silicon Valley Bank.

“There is a little bit stronger rhetoric today and it is kind of pushing the market into a more of a risk-off zone,” Trang said.

U.S. Treasury yields and stocks slipped on Wednesday as investors shunned relatively riskier assets in favor of safe havens.

China’s yuan slipped to a new two-week low against the dollar on Wednesday morning.

Trade-exposed currencies weakened, with the Australian dollar down 0.19% versus the U.S. dollar.

Investors were also looking forward to the release of the minutes from the U.S. Federal reserve’s FOMC meeting in October are due at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). Analysts expect little impact as the Fed made it clear in October that they were not going to cut interest rates any more this year.

“Where do we go from here, especially as we turn the corner on 2020, that’s what most people will be looking for,” Trang said.

Elsewhere, sterling fell 0.05%, a second straight day of declines, dented by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s better-than-expected showing in a pre-election TV debate versus Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is perceived by markets as more business-friendly.

Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed Editing by Marguerita Choy

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