Asia stocks down, dollar wobbles on N Korean risks

TOKYO: Asian stocks fell on Wednesday after a slide on Wall Street overnight while the dollar was on the defensive with tensions in the Korean peninsula showing few signs of abating.
Spreadbetters expected European shares to follow suit, forecasting Britain’s FTSE to open 0.3 per cent lower, Germany’s DAX down 0.4 per cent and France’s CAC off 0.5 per cent.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 per cent.
Japan’s Nikkei stooped to a four-month low and was last down 0.2 per cent.
Australian stocks lost 0.4 per cent.
Shanghai dropped 0.25 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 1 per cent.
South Korea’s KOSPI was down 0.35 per cent, with auto stocks dropping on concerns about their sales in China.
The index has fallen in the past four days. Shares in South Korea are “still closely eyeing further risks from the North,” said Rhoo Yong-Seok, a stock analyst at KB Securities in Seoul.
Simmering geopolitical tensions following North Korea’s biggest-ever nuclear test on Sunday kept risk appetite in check.
Pyongyang is ready to send “more gift packages” to the United States, one of its top diplomats said on Tuesday.
Against this backdrop, US stocks sank overnight, with the S&P 500 stumbling to its biggest single-day loss in about three weeks.
“Risks emanating from the Korean peninsula have a broad impact particularly in East Asia, but after a few days the effects begin to fade in other regions, like those of emerging markets,” said Kota Hirayama, Senior Market Economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.
Emerging markets are likely to shift their focus to the European Central Bank policy meeting on Thursday and then the September 19-20 US Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) gathering, Hirayama said.
“The steady flow of foreign investor funds into emerging markets have shown signs of abating lately.
Euro zone and US monetary policies could prove crucial in dictating these flows.”
The dollar posted losses, notably against the Japanese yen and Swiss franc, reflecting the risk-averse mood in the broader markets.
Investors are keen to see whether the ECB will send a message regarding the timing of an exit from its ultra-loose monetary policy.
Few expect the Fed to tighten monetary policy this month and will focus on whether it leaves the door open for a rate hike in December.
The greenback was down 0.1 per cent at 108.690 yen after losing about 0.9 per cent overnight, its biggest one-day drop in three months.
The Swiss franc was steady at $0.9548 per dollar having gained more than 1 per cent so far this week.
The dollar suffered further after Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said on Tuesday inflation was “well short” of target, in the clearest signal yet the central bank is getting more dovish in the face of weak data.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was little changed at 92.313 after losing 0.4 per cent the previous day.
The euro was flat at $1.1913 ahead of Thursday’s ECB policy meeting.
Government debt benefited from the risk-averse mood, with the 10-year US Treasury yield extending its sharp overnight slide and falling to a 10-month low of 2.054 per cent.
In commodities, safe-haven gold hovered near one-year highs as the dollar eased and flight-to-safety demand remained robust thanks to the North Korean risks.
Spot gold was effectively flat at $1,337.56 an ounce after touching $1,344.21 overnight, its highest since September 2016. — Reuters