Asia Pacific share market closed down on Friday, 11 August 2017, as risk-off selling flared on escalating sabre-rattling between North Korea and the US. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.5%.
Overnight, Wall Street closed sharply lower after Trump, with fiery rhetoric, warned Pyongyang against attacking Guam or US allies after it disclosed plans to fire missiles over Japan to land near the US Pacific territory. Trump took specific aim at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying, he had "disrespected our country greatly," and would not be "getting away with it."
Trump issued a new warning to Pyongyang on Friday, saying in a tweet: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely." North Korea had responded to Trump's previous promise to unleash "fire and fury" with a threat to land a missile near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
In commodities, Gold prices, which hit a two-month low on Thursday, were steady at USD 1,286.16 an ounce, after surging over 2% in the past two sessions. Ongoing global glut concerns lingered in oil markets despite a bigger-than-expected draw in U.S. crude inventories, leaving prices volatile. US crude oil crude futures edged up 10 cents to $48.69 per barrel. Brent was last at $52.01, up 0.21% on the day.
Among Asian bourses
Australia Stocks fall 1.2%
Australian equity market finished session near 3-week low, as investors fled to safer assets after the inflammatory exchange of words between North Korea and the United States heightened geopolitical tensions and uncertainty in financial markets. At the close, the S&P/ASX200 index was 1.2%, or 67.8 points lower at 5693.1 while the broader All Ordinaries index also closed down 1.2%, or 67 points at 5743.5. For the week, the S&P/ASX200 index was down 0.5%.
Shares of financial declined, with Australia's top mortgage lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipping 0.7% to settle at its lowest in over two months. Sentiment in the banking sector was also dented after Australia's central bank said it aims to keep interest rates at record lows for a while, with any tightening "quite some time away" and likely to be gradual as households try to whittle down a mountain of debt. CBA shares down 0.7% to $80.50, Westpac closed 1.3% lower, ANZ lost 1.9%, while NAB shares dropped 1%, after it provided the market with a third-quarter update.
Material stocks - vulnerable to heightened risk aversion - bore the brunt of the geopolitical tensions, with miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto slipping 2% and 2.8%, respectively.
The flight from riskier assets helped gold stocks, as spot gold prices rose this week. Newcrest Mining rose 2.1% to close at its highest in three-and-a-half months, and posted its fourth straight session of gains.
China Stocks fall as North Korea tensions simmer
The Mainland China equity market ended steep lower, as mainland investors opted to book profit made in recent session amid escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States. Most of SSE sectors declined, with shares in the mining, financials, and manufacturing sectors being notable losers. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.6%, or 53.21 points, to 3,208.54, while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.6%, or 30.0 points, to 1,842.6.
Concerns over North Korea's plan to fire ballistic missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean have shaken markets around the world, and they are now affecting markets in China. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday escalated his threats against the Asian nation, saying he may not have been tough enough earlier this week, when he declared Pyongyang's threats will be met with "fire and fury."
Shares in materials firms continued their downward course, with Xiamen Tungsten falling 9%, while Jiangxi Copper lost 8% as prices of some metals in Shanghai also felt the pressure of rising North Korea-United States tensions.
Hong Kong Stocks tumble
The Hong Kong stock market finished lower for third straight session, as investor sentiment succumbed to tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. The market also took a huge knock from technology giant Tencent, after news emerged that its successful messaging app, WeChat, and two other Chinese tech heavyweights are being probed by the government. The Hang Seng Index slid 2.0% or 560.49 points at 26,883.51, capping a weekly loss of 2.5%, its worst in 2017. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index also fell 1.9% or 209.23 points to 10,572.97. Turnover increased to HK$139.4 billion from HK$122 billion on Thursday.
Utilities counters became buying targets of risk-averse investors. CLP Holdings (00002) gained 0.8% to HK$82.9. Power Assets (00006) was unchanged at HK$78.1.
REITs failed to display their defense capabilities. Link REIT (00823) fell 0.7% to HK$62.5. Fortune REIT (00778) slipped 1.9% to HK$9.2. Champion REIT (02778) sank 3.2% to HK$5.77.
Financials were lower, led by China Life which was lower 2.9% to HK$23.55 and China Construction Bank which fell 1.6% at HK$6.34.
China's largest aluminium producer was among the biggest loser, tumbling 8.9% to HK$5.19. Coal mining giant China Shenhua also slid 4.4% to HK$19.1. Geely Auto skidding 4.5% to HK$18.42. Apple supplier AAC Tech had 3.8% peeled from its value, to HK$106.7.
Tencent tumbled 4.9% to HK$310.6 as China's internet watchdog announced it is probing WeChat as well as social media platforms backed by Baidu and Sina. It accused the three of violating cyber security laws because their users have spread information deemed a threat to the national security, including pornography, rumours and violence.
Wanda Hotel Development rose for a second day, surging 9% to HK$1.52. Its share price skyrocketed 40% on Thursday after it said it would buy property and tourism assets from Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin.
Sensex settles at over 5-1/2-week low
Indian stock market registered strong losses on last trading day of the week on weak global cues amid escalating tensions between the US and North Korea. Sentiment was also affected adversely after the finance ministry said in its mid-year economic survey today, 11 August 2017, that there are downside risks to the Indian government's growth forecast of 6.75-7.5% for the fiscal year to March 2018. The barometer index, the S&P BSE Sensex, lost 317.74 points or 1.01% to settle at 31,213.59. The Nifty index lost 109.45 points or 1.11% to settle at 9,710.80.
Metal and mining stocks dropped. Hindalco Industries slumped 7.15% after net profit fell 1.36% to Rs 290 crore on 27.55% growth in revenue from operations to Rs 10407 crore in Q1 June 2017 over Q1 June 2016.
MOIL rose 3.57% after the company said its board recommended 1:1 bonus issue of shares. MOIL announced that its net profit surged 107.3% to Rs 97.73 crore on 82.7% increase in net sales to Rs 339.40 crore in Q1 June 2017 over Q1 June 2016.
State Bank of India (SBI) lost 5.36% after the bank's net profit fell 20.44% to Rs 2005.53 crore on 28.57% rise in total income to Rs 62911.08 crore in Q1 June 2017 over Q1 June 2016. The first quarter results are not comparable with year ago period due to merger of its subsidiaries with self, SBI said.
Japan share market dosed on Friday, 11 August 2017, for Obon holiday.
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