Markets cautious on North Korea tensions

Investors yet to see signs that geopolitical tensions between US and North Korea would ease any time soon.

Global stock markets drifted lower on Wednesday amid rising risk aversion linked to the ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, while oil prices pushed ahead as Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.7 per cent at 7,324 points, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.2 per cent to 5,076 points. Germany’s DAX was steady at 12,121 points. US shares were poised for a flat opening, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures unchanged.

Investors are yet to see signs that the geopolitical tensions between the United States and North Korea, which surged after the North’s sixth nuclear test on Sunday, would ease any time soon.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he has given the go-ahead for Japan and South Korea to buy a “substantially increased amount” of sophisticated military equipment from the United States. South Korea is seeking more military might and considering bringing back US nuclear weapons.

“Global stock markets appear to be in a period of nervous uncertainty, as the threat of another North Korean test looms large over any investors wishing to invest in risky assets,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.

Earlier in Asia, most stock markets stuttered with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 0.1 per cent at 19,357.97 points and South Korea’s Kospi 0.3 per cent lower at 2,319.82 points. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 per cent to 27,613.76 points and Shanghai Composite Index was flat at 3,385.39 points. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 per cent to 5,689.70 points.

As well as developments surrounding North Korea, investors, particularly in the energy markets, are monitoring the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history. Irma made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early on Wednesday, roaring along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

In currencies, the euro was up 0.1 per cent at $1.1925 while the greenback rose 0.1 per cent ¥108.87.

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