Asia shares join global rally, hit 10-year high on Irma, North Korea relief

Japan's Topix index added to Monday's rally, the biggest in three months, while South Korean and Australia equities climbed. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares joined a global equities rally, hitting a 10-year peak on Tuesday (Sept 12) with investors breathing a sigh of relief as North Korean fears eased slightly and the worst-case scenario from Hurricane Irma looked to have been avoided.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.1 per cent to its highest level since late 2007. Japan's Nikkei rose 1.0 per cent.

On Wall Street on Monday, US S&P 500 Index surged over 1 per cent to a record high close of 2,488 while MSCI's broadest gauge of the world's stock markets covering 47 markets also hit a new record high, having made its biggest gains in about two months.

Insurers were among the biggest winners, with the MSCI World's insurer index rising 1.5 per cent on Monday, as insured property losses from Hurricane Irma's are expected to be smaller than initially forecast.

Downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes recorded. It cut power to millions of people and ripped roofs off homes as it hit a wide swath of Florida on Sunday and Monday and moved into neighbouring states.

Adding to an uptick in risk appetite was relief that North Korea did not test-fire missiles or conduct nuclear tests over the weekend as some had feared.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea on Monday over the country's sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept 3, imposing a ban on the country's textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.

The measures were less severe than Washington's initial proposal and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States was not looking for war with North Korea and that Pyongyang had "not yet passed the point of no return."

Investors also sold safe-haven assets such as US Treasuries. The 10-year US Treasuries yield jumped to 2.125 per cent from 2.061 per cent, the biggest rise in a month and a half.

"The markets have been alternating between optimism and pessimism. If US bond markets drop further today, it's quite unusual to see them falling for two days in a row so we could say the latest cycle of pessimism, which has lasted two months, may be coming to an end," said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank Corp.

Sharp gains in US bond yields also prompted buy-back in the battered dollar.

The euro dipped to US$1.1958, retreating further from Friday's peak of US$1.2092, which was its highest since January 2015.

The dollar jumped back to 109.30 yen versus Friday's 10-month low of 107.32.

Gold dropped to US$1,325 per ounce, compared to Friday's one-year peak of US$1,357.4.

Oil prices held firm as key US refineries began restarts following Hurricane Harvey, which may help revive crude oil processing.

The possibility of an extension to the 15-month production pact between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-Opec producers also helped to support prices.

Brent crude futures stood at US$53.76 per barrel while US crude futures stood flat at US$48.04 per barrel, having risen 1.2 per cent on Monday.

West Texas Intermediate crude was little changed at US$48.06 following a 1.2 per cent gain on Monday.

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