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Asia markets stabilise as US tones down N Korea rhetoric

Thursday 03.45 BST

What you need to know

  • Gold hovers at two-month high
  • South Korean stocks, won remain weak
  • Oil prices steady
  • Hong Kong stocks slide

Asia Pacific equities stabilised as US officials sought to ease tensions with North Korea following a war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on Wednesday.

Hot topic

Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, said on Wednesday that “Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the past few days”, following on from his comments earlier in the day when he said North Korea posed an “imminent threat”.

His statements came after North Korea threatened to consider a missile strike against the US Pacific territory of Guam and Mr Trump vowed to meet threats with “fire and fury”.

The rush to haven assets tapered on Thursday with the Japanese yen holding steady at ¥110.01 against the dollar while the Swiss franc weakened 0.1 per cent to SFr0.9633 after strengthening 1.1 per cent on Wednesday. Gold was hovering at a two-month high of $1,276.23 after climbing 1.3 per cent in the previous session on the geopolitical tensions.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury was down 1.2 basis points to 2.249 per cent, after hitting a six-week low of 2.212 per cent on Wednesday.

South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index fell 0.7 per cent, while the country’s currency was hovering at a four-week low of Won1,141.40 to the dollar.

Equities

Japan’s Topix index was down 0.1 per cent as gains for energy stocks and the consumer staples sector offset a 1.1 per cent slip for financials.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.3 per cent as the financials sector rose 0.3 per cent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 1.2 per cent as the financials and real estate sectors lost 1.6 per cent. Developer Wharf Holdings was the worst performer on the index, sliding 7.6 per cent after the company announced plans to spin-off its prime Hong Kong property portfolio, sending its shares up 14 per cent on Wednesday.

Forex

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of its peers, was 0.1 per cent stronger at 93.62.

New Zealand’s currency was up as much as 0.5 per cent in early Asia trading after the country’s central bank left interest rates unchanged at 1.75 per cent. The New Zealand dollar reversed earlier gains to fall 0.2 per cent against its US counterpart to $0.7328.

Commodities

Brent oil was flat at $52.70 a barrel following data from the Energy Information Administration showing a sixth successive decline in US crude inventories last week. West Texas Intermediate was also flat at $49.55 a barrel.

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