HONG KONG: Asian markets kicked off the week with gains on Monday as concerns over North Korea eased and a killer hurricane struck Florida with less force than feared.
Traders breathed a sigh of relief that Pyongyang did not fire another missile on Saturday, choosing instead to mark its foundation day with a parade.
The news provided some much-needed cheer for markets after last week’s sell-off sparked by Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear test, with safe-haven assets such as the yen and gold retreating on Monday and the dollar picking up.
The focus is now on the UN Security Council where Washington is pushing for a vote Monday on tough fresh sanctions against Pyongyang, despite resistance from China and Russia.
The greenback had come in for a pounding in recent weeks on waning expectations for further Federal Reserve interest rate rises and doubts about Donald Trump’s chances of pushing through his market-friendly economic policies.
However, it bounced back on Monday, surging back above 108 yen from Friday’s 10-month lows, while it also clawed back against the euro.
“The dollar is on a slightly better footing in early trade as the North Korea headline risk has cooled a bit from last week’s fever pitch,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.
“With little geopolitical headline escalation over the weekend, traders are nimbly unwinding some NK over-hedges in early trade but are still on headline watch.”
On equity markets the weaker yen helped Japan’s Nikkei end the day 1.4 percent higher, while Hong Kong jumped one percent and Shanghai closed up 0.3 percent.
Sydney piled on 0.7 percent, with Seoul 0.7 percent higher and Singapore 0.1 percent up. There were also gains for Bangkok and Manila.
“Investors who had sold equities on wariness over a possible missile launch from North Korea are unwinding their positions for now,” Hiroyasu Iida, head of the investment research center at Aizawa Securities, told Bloomberg News.
In early European trade London added 0.5 percent, while Paris and Frankfurt each added 0.7 percent.
‘Complicated’ rates outlook
Traders are still keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, which is battering Florida but with relatively weaker winds than those which flattened parts of the Caribbean.
Millions have been left without power and many have fled the south of the state, while US forecaster AccuWeather said Sunday the economic cost of Irma and Harvey, which hammered Texas and Louisiana last month, could hit $290 billion.
Analysts said the recovery could cause another headache for the Fed as its policymakers decide whether to raise borrowing costs for a third time this year.
Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, pointed out that New York Fed chief Bill Dudley had said it was too early to know when the bank would tighten rates again.