Economy

Global stocks fall on rising unease over North Korea

Global stocks fall on rising unease over North Korea

Stock markets took the brunt of risk-averse trading on Wednesday after an overnight escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea forced investors into haven assets such as gold, Treasuries and the Swiss franc. Pyongyang said it was examining plans for attacking Guam, a US territory in the Pacific that has a USA military base.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was flat, slipping 0.01 percent, or 1.99 points, to sit at 19,736.72 by the break while the Topix index of all first-section issues fell 0.13 percent, or 2.04 points, to 1,615.86. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, declined 29 cents to $51.61 per barrel in London.

US President Donald Trump warned North Korea again on Thursday not to strike Guam or US allies, saying his earlier threat to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang if it launched an attack may not have been tough enough.

The Japanese market was closed in observance of the Mountain Day holiday.

In currency markets, the Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of 78.71 cents USA, down 0.20 of a USA cent.

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Overnight, U.S. stocks suffered their steepest decline in three months, hit by fears over North Korea.

The dollar slid to an eight-week low against the yen on Friday but was slightly firm against a basket of major currencies.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The tensions between North Korea and the U.S.is an excuse for profit-taking", Seo Sang Young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities. Shares of Macy's lost almost 10% and Kohl's fell 6.9%. The dollar index, which measures its strength against a basket of currencies, gained 0.1 percent to 93.490.

Inflation has risen 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, suggesting that inflation pressures remain well under control.

Until this week, the equity market had managed to shake off negative news, including previous saber-rattling over North Korea and failures in Washington to pass high-profile bills, such as repealing and replacing Obamacare.

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.47 percent while mainland markets traded marginally higher. The grim mood also spread to eurozone markets, with the French CAC 40 falling 0.9%.

Note: U.S crude inventories last week fell by -7.8m barrels, more than expected, but gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly. Traders there were also digesting a rise in jobless claims and the biggest drop in producer prices in 11 months.

Oil also regained momentum as data pointed to declining USA inventories.

Retailers slid after department stores Macy's and Kohl's both said same-store sales continued to decline in the second quarter. Despite the losses, Noble shares rose 17.14 percent.

Until then, lack of supply should make it hard for gilt yields to rise and this should also help gilts out-perform U.S treasuries in the near term.

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