Stocks from Tokyo to Moscow dropped, while the yen gained, amid an uptick in political tension after a US bombing in Afghanistan and comments from a North Korean official. Trading was thin with many markets around the world closed Friday for holidays.
Japan’s Topix index capped its longest string of weekly losses in 15 months after the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb it’s ever used in combat on Islamic State positions in Afghanistan. The yen erased declines and equity markets open in Asia extended losses as a North Korean official said the country “will go to war” if America chooses to provoke it.
The action in Afghanistan came a week after US President Donald Trump authorised missile strikes against Syria for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. It also coincides with rising concern that North Korea may conduct another nuclear test or missile launch. Trump has vowed that the US will act to stop North Korea’s nuclear program unless China manages to constrain its neighbour.
North Korea said Trump is “making trouble” with “aggressive” tweets, according to the Associated Press, citing an interview with North Korea’s vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol. North Korea won’t “keep our arms crossed” in the event of a US pre-emptive strike, the AP quoted the official as saying.
Traders are also trying to get a handle on Trump’s fiscal and economic plans following his remarks from Wednesday, in which he called the dollar too strong, signalled a softening in his stance on China’s currency practices and left open the possibility of reappointing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
Here’s what investors were watching:
— Asian markets including China, Japan, and South Korea were open Friday. Most European markets were closed, as were those in the US.
— Traders will be keeping tabs on the Korean peninsula over the weekend. The “Day of the Sun” holiday on April 15 commemorates the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s long dead founder and current leader Kim Jong UN’s grandfather. The event raises the chance of provocative action from the nuclear-armed state.
— Data on China’s first-quarter gross domestic product is due Monday. The world’s second-largest economy probably expanded 6.8 per cent from a year earlier, a Bloomberg survey of economists showed, the same pace as the prior three months.
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