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Asian shares to focus on North Korea tensions, with safe haven assets still in demand

Geopolitical tensions involving North Korea are likely to weigh on investors’ minds on Thursday, although some market watchers suggested tensions had ratcheted down.

Demand for safe haven assets edged up overnight in response to President Donald Trump’s Tuesday warning of “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to make threats against the U.S. The hermit state responded to Trump’s rhetoric by suggesting it could strike Guam.

Safe haven currencies remained in demand: The Japanese currency traded at 109.95 yen to the dollar at 6:43 a.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels around the 110 handle seen earlier this week. The Swiss franc also firmed against the dollar. The greenback fetched as little as 0.9629 Swiss francs overnight, compared to levels around the 0.97 handle seen in earlier sessions.

The Korean won tumbled overnight, with the dollar fetching as little as 1,138.21 won in the Wednesday session compared to levels around the 1,127 handle earlier in the week. That was the won’s steepest fall in almost eight weeks, Reuters said. The Korean currency last traded at 1,138.27 won to the dollar.

Meanwhile, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields slipped to around 2.25 percent after falling to as low as 2.2085 percent, according to NAB.

Gold prices were also given a boost by safe haven demand, with the yellow metal trading around two-month highs overnight. Spot gold prices rose to $1,277.58 an ounce by 6:54 a.m. HK/SIN compared to levels around the $1,260 handle seen before the geopolitical tensions ramped up.

One expert told CNBC there could be heightened risk of miscalculation over the Korean Peninsula, but market watchers suggested tensions appeared to have cooled slightly.

“Although risk aversion was felt in Europe, the toning down of language saw a recovery in the U.S. (session),” National Australia Bank economist Tapas Strickland said in a Thursday note.

Back in Asia, futures tipped a higher open for Japanese equities. Nikkei futures traded in Chicago were up 0.18 percent at 19,775 and Osaka futures were 0.16 percent higher at 19,770 — compared to the Nikkei 225’s last close of 19,738.71.

Meanwhile, Australian SPI futures were down 1.05 percent at 5,705 against the benchmark S&P/ASX 200’s previous close of 5,765.66.

In the U.S., major indexes closed lower as investors digested geopolitical tensions. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.17 percent, or 36.44 points, to close at 22,048.70, the S&P 500 edged down 0.04 percent, or 0.90 points, to end at 2,474.02 and the Nasdaq declined 0.28 percent, or 18.13 points, to finish at 6,352.33.

On the earnings front, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing announced Wednesday that its second-quarter net profit climbed 12.5 percent to HK$1.8 billion ($230 million), higher than an average analyst forecast of HK$1.6 billion, Reuters said.

Several Asian corporates are expected to report earnings during the day. Those include Australia’s AMP, Japan Post Bank, as well as Hong Kong-listed MTR and China Mobile.

Oil prices rose almost 1 percent overnight on headlines about refineries stateside processing record levels of crude, Reuters said. Brent crude gained 1.1 percent to settle at $52.70 a barrel and U.S. crude rose 0.8 percent to settle at $49.56.

In central bank news, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held steady on interest rates at 1.75 percent on Thursday. While the RBNZ said first-quarter growth was softer than expected, the central bank also said it continued to anticipate gradual inflation, Reuters reported.

The Philippine central bank will also make its monetary policy decision later in the day.

The day’s economic calendar for the region is fairly quiet (all times in HK/SIN):

  • 7:50 a.m.: Japan June machinery orders
  • 9:30 a.m.: Australia June home loans
  • 12:00 p.m.: Malaysia June retail sales

Source: cnbc china
Asian shares to focus on North Korea tensions, with safe haven assets still in demand

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