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Asia: Markets rebound but North Korea concerns remain

[HONG KONG] Asian traders returned to buying on Wednesday, reversing the previous day's losses as Donald Trump's measured response to North Korea's missile launch and upbeat US data restored a semblance of calm to markets.

The rush to the sidelines that followed Pyongyang's launch of a rocket over Japan on Tuesday abated through the day as initial fears subsided, while the dollar clawed back losses against the yen and euro.

While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch "an unprecedented, serious and grave threat", Mr Trump - who had warned of "fire and fury" over a previous rocket test - said only that "all options" were on the table.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has promised more missile flights over Japan, insisting his nuclear-armed nation's provocation was a mere "curtain-raiser", in the face of UN condemnation and US warnings of severe repercussions.

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But while analysts said the North Korea threat was still apparent, unease had been soothed by the fact that Mr Trump and Mr Abe were sticking to a diplomatic line and the UN Security Council had been gathered.

"With a toned down President Trump and the UN Security Council in closed-door meetings with economic sanctions the preferred option, the world just feels like a safer place today, and investor are relishing in this respite," said Oanda head of Asia-Pacific trading Stephen Innes.

On equity markets Seoul - which ended down 0.2 per cent Tuesday having lost more than one percent in the morning - edged up 0.1 per cent and Tokyo's Nikkei went into the break 0.6 per cent higher, helped by a weaker yen.

In other markets Hong Kong rose 0.7 per cent, Shanghai added 0.1 per cent and Singapore put on 0.3 per cent. Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta were also higher.

DOLLAR BOUNCE

"The 'risk off' sentiment that overshadowed markets after the launch of yet another missile from North Korea didn't even last 24 hours," David de Garis, director at National Australia Bank, said in a commentary.

The dollar plunged on Tuesday to as low as 108.50 yen as dealers rushed for safe investments but managed to bounced back later in the day and in early Asian trade was heading towards 110 yen.

The greenback also picked up against the euro, a day after the single currency broke to a five-year high of 1.2041 on expectations the European Central Bank will soon start cutting down its stimulus, while talk of fresh Federal Reserve interest rate rises has eased.

The US unit was supported by bargain-buying and a strong consumer confidence reading, while dealers are upbeat about upcoming US jobs data on Friday.

However, Satou Masakazu, senior analyst at Gaitame Online, said "in the long run, the euro-buying sentiment remains strong".

Oil prices remain subdued by Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas and the crude sector.

Both main contracts ticked down marginally on Wednesday a day after eking out minor gains and traders are fearful of a long-term shutdown of refining capacity in the oil-rich Gulf Coast region.

AFP

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