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Shares, dollar declines as US-North Korea tensions escalate

TOKYO: Asian shares and US stock futures slipped on Wednesday and investors piled into havens such as US Treasuries, gold and the yen as tensions on the Korean peninsula escalated, with Pyongyang saying it is considering plans to attack Guam.

A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army said in a statement that it was “carefully examining” plans for a missile attack on the US Pacific territory, which has a large American military base.

The comments came just hours after US President Donald Trump told North Korea that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”, rattling global financial markets.

Stock market losses slowly deepened through the day.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.4 percent as the stronger yen sapped investor appetite.

South Korean shares, which have been among the strongest performers in the world so far this year, fell 0.9 percent, while the won sank around 0.7 percent to 1,136.4 to the dollar. Both slid to more than one-month lows.

Financial markets have tended to quickly shake off North Korea’s periodic saber-rattling in the past, dismissing it as bluster, but tensions have lingered this year amid signs that it is making progress in its ballistic missile program and on Trump’s growing frustration with Pyongyang.

“The sell-off caused by geopolitical tensions on North Korea will likely be short-lived as long as both Trump and Kim Jong Un keep making feints against each other and neither takes military action,” said Tomoaki Fujii, head of the investment research division at Akatsuki Securities Inc in Tokyo.

“The market’s dent only lasted for a week in April when tension rose between them after North Korea launched a missile. Both countries know that there is no turning back once they push the button,” Fujii said.

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Azhar Hashmi

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