SEOUL, South Korea >> Asian stocks were lower today as investors in the region had many reasons to worry about rising geopolitical tensions and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Many markets were closed for public holidays.
KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 18,364.68 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.5 percent to 2,137.07. Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.6 percent to 3,254.97. Hong Kong markets were closed and so were markets in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries.
NORTH KOREA: Analysts said investors sought safe havens as North Korea was believed to be planning a nuclear test and the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier toward the region. Pyongyang is preparing for the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung on Saturday. North Korean has intensified rhetoric warning it would retaliate strongly against any aggression as U.S.-South Korea hold military exercises.
ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “Geopolitics seemed to dominate over the past week with the ramifications of the U.S.’ missile strike on Syria still reverberating and tensions around North Korea steadily building,” Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital, said in a daily commentary. “The issues around Syria are likely to settle down assuming U.S. involvement does not escalate, but North Korea is more risky.”
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished lower for the third straight day on Thursday as energy stocks led the decline. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 0.7 percent to 2,328.95. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.7 percent to 20,453.25. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.5 percent to 5,805.15. U.S. markets will be closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
OIL: On Friday, the New York Mercantile Exchange and the London Metal Exchange were closed for a holiday. On Thursday, benchmark U.S. crude rose 7 cents to close at $53.18 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 3 cents to close at $55.89 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar bounced back after weakening against major currencies following President Donald Trump’s comment in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the dollar was “getting too strong.” The dollar strengthened to 109.18 yen from 109.12 yen. The euro rose slightly to $1.0617 from $1.0616.