Asian shares, US dollar rise on relief at North Korea inaction

A man walks past a stock quotation board flashing in Tokyo on Aug 15, 2017.
A man walks past a stock quotation board flashing in Tokyo on Aug 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The US dollar won a reprieve from risk aversion on Monday (Sept 11) after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un decided to hold a party over the weekend rather than launch another missile, tempering safe havens like the yen and Treasuries.

Investors remained cautious over the possible economic impact of Hurricane Irma as it chewed its way up the Florida coast, knocking out electricity to 3 million homes and businesses statewide.

Japan's Nikkei rose 1 per cent after Pyongyang held a massive celebration to congratulate the nuclear scientists and technicians who steered the country's sixth and largest nuclear test a week ago.

The United States and its allies had been bracing for another long-range missile launch in time for the 69th anniversary of North Korea's founding on Saturday.

The sense of relief was enough to lift E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 by 0.3 per cent, while yields on 10-year Treasury notes rose 3 basis points to 2.09 per cent.

South Korea's main index added 0.7 per cent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.1 per cent.

The US dollar hovered at 108.31 yen, up from Friday's 10-month trough of 107.32. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar added 0.15 per cent to 91.492 but that was still uncomfortably close to last week's 2 ½-year low of 91.011.

The euro eased to US$1.2015, having hit a top of US$1.2092 on Friday amid speculation the European Central Bank was closer to starting a wind-back of its stimulus program.

ECB officials last week generally agreed their next move would be to cut their bond purchases and discussed a range of options, Reuters reported.

China's central bank was also a focus in Asia after sources said it plans to scrap reserve requirements for financial institutions settling foreign exchange forward yuan positions with effect from Monday.

"The removal potentially makes it easier for traders to purchase the USD, easing the pressure for yuan appreciation," said analysts at ANZ in a note. "The change likely signals some discomfort about the stronger yuan and its impact on Chinese exports."

The dollar was last up 0.15 per cent against the offshore yuan at 6.5113 yuan, off a low of 6.4437.

There were also reports Beijing was planning to shut down local crypto-currency exchanges, dealing a blow to Bitcoin's recent stellar rally.

Bitcoin was quoted down 0.3 per cent at US$4,215 on the BitStamp platform, off the recent record high of nearly US$5,000.

In commodity markets, gold softened 0.7 per cent to US$1,337.01 an ounce and away from a one-year peak of US$1,357.54.

Oil prices regained a little ground after falling sharply on Friday amid worries that energy demand would be hit hard by Hurricane Irma.

US crude was trading 23 cents firmer at US$47.71 a barrel, while Brent rose 21 cents to US$53.99.