Asian shares mostly lower as North Korean tensions simmer
TOKYO — Shares were mostly lower Tuesday in Asia amid growing wariness over tensions with North Korea. A stronger yen pulled Japanese shares lower.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index slipped 0.5 percent to 18,708.49 as Toshiba and other big manufacturers lost ground. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 0.8 percent to 24,063.28 and the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.5 percent to 3,252.67 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 2,119.86. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 5,938.70. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
KOREAS: North Korea said there could be “catastrophic consequences” after the U.S. ordered the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to waters off the Korean Peninsula. Tensions were already high with U.S.-South Korea wargames underway, following recent ballistic missile launches by the North that have rattled neighboring countries.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “The markedly unusual move had been explained as a reaction towards North Korea’s provocations and has fueled concerns that further tensions may emerge. Certainly with the hardening of the stance by the new U.S. leader, the concern could very much be justified,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.
TOSHIBA: Shares in Toshiba Corp. fell 1.9 percent by midday Tuesday, ahead of the possible release of its earnings report for April-December, which has been delayed twice already. Further delay could result in the troubled electronics and energy giant being de-listed.
WALL STREET’S LEAD: Overnight trading offered scant direction, drifting between small gains and losses ahead of the Good Friday holiday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.1 percent to 2,357.16 and the Dow Jones industrial average was steady at 20,658.02. The Nasdaq composite index added 0.1 percent, to 5,880.93.
ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil added 2 cents to $53.10 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed higher Monday for the fifth day in a row, adding 84 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $53.08 a barrel. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 6 cents to $56.04 a barrel. It jumped 74 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $55.98 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.94 yen from 111.15 yen late Friday as investors shifted into the traditionally “safe haven” currency. The euro strengthened to $1.0596 from $1.0588.