Asian stocks lower as US, NKorea nuclear tensions rise

Asian stock markets slid Wednesday following Wall Street’s decline as President Donald Trump and North Korea traded threats over the North’s nuclear program.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.3 percent to 19,737.59 points and Seoul’s Kospi fell 0.7 percent to 2,378.56. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2 percent to 3,273.71 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.2 percent at 27,803.55. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand also declined. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 5,773.70 while Manila, Malaysia and Jakarta also rose.

KOREA JITTERS: North Korea and the United States traded escalating threats, heightening fears miscalculation might spark conflict. President Donald Trump warning the North would be met “with fire and fury.” Pyongyang said it was examining plans for attacking Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific that has a U.S. military base. The comments follow reports that North Korea has mastered a crucial technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

WALL STREET: Losses in health care and consumer-focused companies pulled U.S. stocks lower, snapping a 10-day winning streak for the Dow Jones industrial average. Energy stocks fell along with crude prices as investors kept an eye on the latest company earnings and geopolitical news. The market slide accelerated slightly in the last half-hour of trading as Trump denounced North Korea’s nuclear program. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.2 percent, to 2,474.92. The Dow slid 0.2 percent to 22,085.34. Both were coming off record highs. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 percent, to 6,370.46.

U.S. ECONOMY: Employers posted a record number of open jobs in June while a survey of small businesses showed optimism improving. Job openings jumped 8 percent to 6.2 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The number of people quitting their jobs also dropped. The data suggest employers have plenty of jobs to fill but are struggling to find workers. The NFIB small business optimism index rose to 105.2 in July from 103.6 in June. That “looks high enough to be consistent with a 5 percent-plus pace for real GDP growth,” said Jim O’Sullivan of High Frequency Economics in a report.

FED WATCH: Investors looked ahead to an appearance Thursday by Bill Dudley, president of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for signs of the Fed’s outlook on the economy. They are looking for confirmation the Fed is sticking with plans for a possible December interest rate hike.

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