Swiss franc eases slightly after spiking on North Korea tensions

Ivan Schwartz
August 11, 2017

Brewing tensions between the US and North Korea put investors in a selling mood again Thursday, dragging USA stocks lower for the third day in a row.

President Donald Trump warned North Korea of "fire and fury" this week in response to recent threats from Pyongyang, which said it was examining plans for attacking Guam, a USA territory in the Pacific with a military base. Pyongyang's statements follow U.S. President Donald Trump's late-Tuesday afternoon vow to respond to the Hermit nation with "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it doesn't cease its threatening posture, which includes a series of recent ballistic-missile tests.

The kiwi was 0.79 per cent lower against the greenback after New Zealand's central bank said it was slightly more uncomfortable with the high level of the local dollar than it had been in May.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent, while Japan's Nikkei lost 1.3 percent as the stronger yen sapped investor appetite.

In Europe, Germany's DAX fell 1.1 percent, while the CAC 40 in France lost 0.6 percent.

The last time the S&P 500 fell over 1 per cent was on May. 17.

The Swiss franc had also risen more than 1 percent against the euro on Wednesday, recording one of its largest single-day jumps against the euro since the Swiss National Bank removed its cap on the Swiss franc in January 2015.

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The franc wasn't the only beneficiary to the risk-off sentiment sweeping markets. Market analysts expect that the pullback in stocks due to the increasingly aggressive tone in exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang will continue, although investors hope that the selling will not escalate to a correction - a decline of 10 percent or more. London's FTSE 100 shed 0.8 per cent to 7,481.30. On Wall Street, the future for the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4 per cent and that for the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 per cent.

Platinum climbed 0.4 percent to $980.10 per ounce after touching $984.60 during the session, its highest since April 18.

The US dollar was down 0.77 per cent against the yen at 109.21 yen.

Palladium climbed 0.3 percent to $898.80 per ounce and was on track to end the week 2.3-percent higher.

More than 430 stocks from all US exchanges hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks or more on Thursday, the most for any session since mid-November right after Trump was elected.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.2255 per cent, from 2.242 per cent late on Wednesday. -North Korea tension also weighed on the Canadian dollar, which weakened against its USA counterpart, despite higher oil prices and stronger-than-expected domestic housing data.

Sterling was last trading at $1.3005, up 0.12 percent on the day.

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