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North Korea missile test leaves stocks unimpressed; yen wilts

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Marc Jones

(Reuters) - Traders paid little attention to the latest missile test by North Korea on Friday, with and other risk assets barely moving, gold lower and focus rapidly returning to when and where will go up.

London, Frankfurt and Paris were a shade lower after Pyongyang fired a second missile in as many weeks over Japan , but the test had little effect on what was set to be the best week for European stocks since July.

The yen was also pushed lower to 110.7 per dollar in the currency markets, but that too was a continuation of trend.

The Japanese currency has seen its biggest fall this week in 10 months while the dollar is headed for its biggest rise since April, thanks to a revival in U.S. inflation data and bets the Federal Reserve could raise rates again this year.

"You have risk appetite returning in the more generally at the moment, so you have all these forces pushing down the yen," said Vasileios Gkionakis, head of FX strategy at UniCredit.

Britain's pound was the other standout, hitting a 14-month high of $1.3430 a day after the Bank of England said it might raise for the first time in a decade in the "coming months"

Sterling was also on course for its best week in over eight years on a trade-weighted basis and since November 2016 against the euro, which finally looks to have cooled following its surge this year.

"If these data trends of reducing slack, rising pay pressure, strengthening household spending and robust growth continue, the appropriate time for a rise in the Bank Rate might be as early as in the coming months," BoE member Gertjan Vlieghe said on Friday.

"If they don't do it (hike rates) this time, their credibility will be lost completely for the next few years," Unicredit's Gkionakis said. expect the BoE to move in November, he added.

Government bond yields slipped from the week's highs as the geopolitical tensions drove investors back into a market they have been leaving all week. Safe-haven gold was also heading for its biggest weekly drop since July.

North Korea's latest test missile flew over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido before landing about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) into the Pacific Ocean, which would be far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Germany's 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the region, inched down to 0.41 percent, but was still flirting with its biggest weekly rise since late June.

U.S. yields have also jumped. U.S. Fed funds rate futures on Friday were pricing in a roughly 45 percent chance the Fed will raise rates by December, versus around 25 percent at the start of this week.

CRYPTO CRUSH

U.S. stock futures pointed to a steady start for the S&P 500, which is on track for a near 1.5 percent rise this week after another run of record highs.

MSCI's Asia-Pacific share index excluding Japan shed 0.1 percent in reaction to the North Korea missile overnight, though it was still up 0.7 percent on the week.

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.5 percent and a more than 3 percent jump gave it its best week since November in a directly inverse move to the yen.

"There have been reports (for a while) suggesting North Korea is preparing a missile launch, so this was by no means a surprise," said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief strategist at Daiwa Securities.

"In a way, this seems like something have already experienced before, thus producing a limited reaction," he added.

Oil prices were lower on Friday but largely held the gains that had prices testing flirting with multi-month highs the previous day as the clean-up after hurricanes in the United States meant a firmer tone for demand.

Brent crude futures traded at $55.14 per barrel, down 0.6 percent on the day but up 2.5 percent on the week. They hit a five-month high of $55.99 on Thursday.

Elsewhere, bitcoin slipped another 3 percent after having tumbled 16 percent on Thursday, when Chinese outlet Yicai reported that China plans to shut down all bitcoin exchanges by the end of September.

BTCChina, one of China's top three exchanges, said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30.

The cryptocurrency was down for an eighth consecutive day at close to $3,000 and was on track for its worst week since 2013, having slumped 25 percent since Monday.

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo, editing by Larry King)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, September 15 2017. 15:15 IST
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