Yen gains, Asian stocks fall on North Korean missile report

Stocks in Tokyo and Seoul slumped and the yen strengthened on Monday (March 6).
Stocks in Tokyo and Seoul slumped and the yen strengthened on Monday (March 6). PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Stocks in Tokyo and Seoul slumped and the yen strengthened on Monday (March 6) amid a report North Korea launched ballistic missiles, while investors also weighed messages from China's National People's Congress and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

The yen rose 0.2 per cent to 113.77 per US dollar as of 9:19am in Tokyo. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed, after slipped 0.7 per cent on Friday to halt a five-day rally.

The Kospi dropped 0.4 per cent and the Topix slid 0.4 per cent.

Futures on the S&P 500 declined 0.4 per cent.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will hold a National Security Council meeting today after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles.

Tensions have been rising over North Korea, which also conducted a missile test during Abe's state visit to the US last month and is suspected of being behind the assassination of its leader's half brother in Malaysia.

Equities were more muted elsewhere, with New Zealand's benchmark up 0.1 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index little changed.

In China over the weekend, Premier Li Keqiang set a 2017 growth target of "around 6.5 per cent, or higher if possible" in a report to the NPC that reiterated the pursuit of neutral monetary policy this year. Meanwhile, Yellen joined a chorus of US policy makers who have suggested growth remains on track to warrant tighter monetary policy as early as next week's Fed meeting.

Fixed-income markets indicate a greater than 80 per cent chance of a hike then, with a monthly jobs report on Friday and a read on inflation the day of the March decision looming as slight risks. While officials have moved forward market expectations for a hike, they have done little to signal that the pace of tightening will quicken. Central banks in Europe and Australia will come into focus this week as the Fed now goes into a quiet period before its decision.