Economy

North Korea Has Markets Nervous But Not Panicked

North Korea Has Markets Nervous But Not Panicked

"The data confirms the Fed will have a wait-and-see attitude", said King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.

Traders saw the chance of a rate hike in December falling to 40 percent from 42 percent before Friday's data, according to Federal funds futures. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged by 2 percent, while South Korea's Kospi Index slumped by 1.7 percent.

Buying interest is somewhat subdued, however, as the ever-escalating war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korea continues to raise geopolitical concerns.

Earlier in the week, Trump said the USA would unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S.

He said the crisis provided a "perfect trigger" for a correction at a time when many markets - including the FTSE 100 - were at or around record highs, leaving them vulnerable to a sell-off if investors think it is time to take profits.

"While it appears that Pyongyang's detailed strike plan against Guam has created a sour backdrop to trading, it's worth noting that US/North Korea tensions aren't having quite the same effect on the DAX and CAC", said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

At the close trading in NY, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 204.69 points, or 0.9%, to 21,844.01, its biggest one-day fall since May 17.

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The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 1.06 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.17 percent. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slipped less than 1 point to 1,371.

Significant strength was also visible among software stocks, as reflected by the 1.2% gain posted by the Dow Jones Software Index. On the Nasdaq, 1 378 issues rose and 892 fell.

More than 430 stocks from all USA exchanges hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks or more on Thursday, the most for any session since mid-November right after Trump was elected. "You're less than 2 percent off the high for the S&P heading into a weekend where uncertainty with North Korea still lingers", Lerner said.

But the yen added to an already-strong weekly rally of close to 1.5 percent, hitting its highest in nearly four months versus the dollar at 108.73 yen.

For the week the S&P fell 1.4 percent and the Dow lost 1.1 percent - their largest weekly drops since the week ending on March 24 - and the NASDAQ was off 1.5 percent.

"If the data continues to come in on the softer side, the market might start to price the Fed staying on hold this year", said Sireen Harajli, FX strategist at Mizuho in NY.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,442 as of 2:43 p.m.

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Sterling was last trading at US$1.3007, up 0.25 per cent on the day.

In bond markets, the yield on U.S. Treasuries fell, also pressured by the lowered expectations for a Fed move.

The data comes amid tepid inflation that has remained below the Fed's 2% target, despite low unemployment.

The benchmark USA yield on Thursday was just above 2.2 percent, at its lowest level since late June, as investors bought up Treasuries, a classic safe harbor. The 30-year bond was last up 4/32 in price to yield 2.7871 per cent, from 2.794 per cent late on Thursday.

And in a textbook-type cross-asset move toward safety in times of trouble, the Japanese yen hit an eight-week high against the US dollar while spot gold also reached a two-month high. USA gold futures gained 0.26 percent to $1,293.50 an ounce.

Ongoing global glut concerns lingered in oil markets despite a bigger-than-expected draw in US crude inventories, leaving prices volatile.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 23 cents to settle at $48.82 a barrel on the on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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