July 18, 2018

Asian stocks fall amid escalating US, North Korea tension

12 August 2017, 06:12 | Randall Craig

Fire and fury President Trump promises a response"like the world has never seen to NK threats- Source Gage Skidmore

Fire and fury President Trump promises a response

Traditional safe-haven currencies including the Swiss franc and Japanese yen rose on Wednesday, boosted by worries about increased tensions between the United States and North Korea.

The hope that the Fed will have to slow its rate-hike path appeared to stop, at least for now, the near $1-trillion loss in world stocks valuations this week triggered by the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

Federal Reserve Bank of NY president William Dudley is set to speak later in the day and his comments will be parsed for clues regarding the future pace of interest rate hikes.

Insurers and banks, which invest in higher-yielding products such as foreign bonds, underperformed after U.S. Treasury yields fell on Wednesday, with the yields on the benchmark 10-year note hitting a six-week low.

Trump continued to ramp up the rhetoric with a post on Twitter this morning indicating that the U.S. is prepared to take military action against North Korea.

The warning came just hours after US President Donald Trump told North Korea that any threat it presented to the United States would be met with "fire and fury".

"There's not a great incentive to buy big", said Lerner of SunTrust Advisory.

The headlines about North Korea served as a spark to jolt investors out of complacency on the heels of an extended period of calm in the market, said McClellan who shared the following chart in a report.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed down 143.08 points, or 0.94 per cent, at 15,074.25, its lowest close since July 7. Wall Street was poised for a soft opening with S&P futures and Dow futures both down 0.2 percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 1%, while benchmarks in Hong Kong and South Korea - which had been one of the best performers of 2017 - closed down 2% and 1.7% respectively, Friday, putting the week's drop at 2.5% and 3.2%.

"Pretty remarkable, perhaps even extraordinary, considering", said Tim Ash, strategist at fund manager BlueBay.

But U.S. stocks regained some lost ground, despite Trump's comments Friday that U.S. weapons are "locked and loaded", ready to respond if North Korea acts "unwisely".

The yen held steady against the dollar, taking a breather after having risen on Wednesday to its highest level in almost eight weeks.

"The slight bias to the upside (in stocks) is a result of the CPI number".

USA producer prices unexpectedly fell in July, pointing to a further moderation in inflation that could delay a Federal Reserve interest rate increase.

"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.

Computer hardware stocks rebounded following recent weakness, with the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index climbing by 1.4%.

Sterling was last trading at $1.3007, up 0.25 percent on the day.

Gold is sensitive to moves in USA rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets such as bullion. The data suggested little sign of inflationary pressure within the economy. The September copper contract was down two cents to US$2.91 a pound. That is significant because yields fall when bond prices rise.

Spot gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,284.64 per ounce as of 0616 GMT, but was set for a weekly gain of over 2 percent. Its weekly gain of 2.6 percent is the largest since June 2016.

Markets remained concerned over the risk of a U.S. first-strike against North Korean nuclear facilities.

Oil prices turned around late in the day, with Brent crude nudging higher 0.04% to $51.92 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate ahead by 0.12% at $48.65.

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