Asian stocks fell broadly on Friday as rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and North Korea as well as a rating downgrade to China’s credit rating sent investors scurrying towards safe-haven assets such as gold, the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc.
Geopolitical worries intensified after North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said the country could consider a nuclear test on an unprecedented scale in the Pacific Ocean in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest threat to destroy the rogue nation.
S&P Global Ratings downgraded China’s credit rating, citing higher economic and financial risks after a prolonged period of strong credit growth. The ratings agency also lowered its sovereign rating on Hong Kong, citing spillover risks.
Chinese stocks ended off their day’s lows amid expectations that Beijing will maintain stability in markets ahead of next month’s meeting of the
Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index slipped 5.28 points or 0.16 percent to 3,352.53 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.82 percent at 27,880 in late trade.
Japanese shares slipped from a two-year high as renewed concerns about North Korea helped lift demand for safe-haven assets, including the Japanese yen. The Nikkei average ended down 0.25 percent at 20,296.45 after hitting as high as 20,417.07 earlier in the day.
The broader Topix index closed 0.25 percent lower at 1,664.61. Steelmakers bore the brunt of the selling, with JFE Holdings falling as much as 4.7 percent and Kobe Steel ending down 3.3 percent.
Australian shares rose notably to snap a three-day losing streak despite the weakness elsewhere across the Asia-Pacific region. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose by 26.70 points or 0.47 percent to 5,682.10 while the All Ordinaries index ended 23.90 points or 0.42 percent higher at 5,740.60.
The big four banks closed up between 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent. Mining giant Rio Tinto advanced 0.7 percent after launching a share buyback. Regional broadcaster Prime Media Group fell as much as 11.6 percent after talks with Seven West Media over a potential merger failed.
Seoul shares fell for a fourth day, with steelmakers succumbing to heavy selling pressure in the wake of reports that the United States plans to impose tariffs on South Korean steel.
The benchmark Kospi slid 17.79 points or 0.74 percent to finish at 2,388.71. Posco shares tumbled 3.2 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 19.37…