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Asia

Geopolitical tensions back in the spotlight as Asian shares await China inflation data

Most Asian indexes were pressured as geopolitical tensions re-entered the spotlight Wednesday, while the dollar saw a boost from the Tuesday release of robust monthly U.S. jobs openings.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.91 percent and South Korea’s Kospi declined 0.66 percent in early trade.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index bucked the trend to climb 0.16 percent, driven by gains in its heavily-weighted financials sub-index, which rose 0.47 percent.

The Singapore market is closed for the National Day public holiday.

Geopolitical tensions ramped up after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would be “met with fire and fury” if it continued to make threats against the U.S. His comments came on the back of a report from the Washington Post that the hermit state had created a miniaturized nuclear weapon that could fit in its missiles.

Just hours after Trump’s warning, North Korea reportedly said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles.

Demand for safe haven assets picked up following the statement from North Korea. The yen firmed slightly against the dollar, with the currency trading 110.10 to the dollar at 8:06 a.m. HK/SIN. The greenback had fetched as much as 110.37 yen earlier in the session.

Gold prices were also slightly higher. Spot gold traded at $1,263.20 an ounce at 8:32 a.m. HK/SIN compared to levels around $1,261 an ounce in the previous session. The yellow metal had earlier declined when the dollar firmed overnight.

Meanwhile, U.S. job openings, a labor demand metric, rose by a record 6.2 million in June, exceeding hiring, according to Reuters. Market watchers took note of the data as strength in the labor market is likely to result in higher wage pressures and influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

“The data keeps the Fed on track for another rate hike later this year, but with wage pressures not yet showing in higher average hourly earning, the market remains skeptical,” National Australia Bank currency strategist Rodrigo Catril said in a note.

The dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of rival currencies stood at 93.590 at 8:07 a.m. HK/SIN, off an overnight high of 93.876 but still above the 93.3 seen for most of the Tuesday session.

On the earnings front, Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced Wednesday its full-year profits rose 4.6 percent to A$9.88 billion ($7.82 billion). The bank currently faces allegations it breached money laundering rules Down Under. CBA scrapped the bonus of its chief executive following the allegations. Shares of the bank were up 1.09 percent in early trade.

Other corporate news of note included the announcement of a joint venture between Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Yahoo Japan. The 300 million yen ($2.71 million) joint venture aims to process customer data at the Japanese bank in order to improve services, Nikkei Asian Review reported. SMFG shares were off 0.59 percent and Yahoo Japan shed 0.2 percent.

Toshiba stock was up 6.05 percent in early trade. The move in Toshiba share prices followed news that the company’s auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata is expected to sign off on its annual results, Reuters reported. However, PwC is also likely to provide a negative view of Toshiba’s internal controls, Reuters said.

Other potential market movers in Asia could include Hong Kong’s Esprit Holdings. The retailer release its full-year profit estimate for the year that ended on June 30. The company said net profits were expected to come in at a range between HK$50 million ($6.39 million) to HK$80 million ($10.23 million) compared to the HK$21 million ($1.53 million) seen last year.

The Hong Kong Exchange Group and Japan’s Bridgestone are also expected to report earnings during the day.

Oil edged down following headlines overnight that OPEC exports had increased due to higher production from Nigeria and Libya, Reuters said. Brent crude slipped 0.4 percent to trade at $51.93 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slid 0.31 percent to trade at $49.02.

Ahead, investors are expected to focus on July inflation data out of China during the trading session due at 9:30 a.m. HK/SIN.

Equities stateside closed lower Tuesday following Trump’s comments on North Korea.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

Source: cnbc china
Geopolitical tensions back in the spotlight as Asian shares await China inflation data

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