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Stocks tumble, yen gains after North Korea fires missile over Japan


TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures and Asian share markets tumbled on Tuesday, while the yen jumped to four-month highs against the dollar after North Korea fired a missile over northern Japan, setting up a tense start to trading for markets in the region.

S&P mini futures ESc1 fell as much as 0.85 percent on the news before paring losses to trade 0.5 percent below its close on Monday, when it was little changed.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 fell 0.7 percent to four-month low while South Korea’s Kospi .KS11 shed 0.5 percent, helping to drag down MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS 0.3 percent.

North Korea fired a missile early on Tuesday that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific waters off the northern region of Hokkaido, South Korea and Japan said, in a sharp escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under young leader Kim Jong-Un, the most recent on Saturday, but firing projectiles over mainland Japan is rare.

“North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam after U.S. President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

The war of words between Trump and Pyongyang caused global alarm and rocked financial markets.

“The missile flew across Japan this time, so the implications will likely be a bit different from previous ones,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The yen rose 0.8 percent to 108.33 to the dollar, its highest since April, despite Japan’s proximity to North Korea.

The yen tends to benefit during times of geopolitical or financial stress as Japan is the world’s biggest creditor nation and there is an assumption that Japanese investors will repatriate funds should a crisis materialize.

The safe-haven Swiss franc also advanced 0.5 percent to 0.9510 franc on the dollar CHF=, its highest level in about a month and rose 0.6 percent to 1.1385 per euro EURCHF=.

Gold XAU= also jumped 0.9 percent to $1,324 per ounce, hitting its highest level since Nov 9.

Investors also rushed to the safety of U.S. Treasuries, pushing down the 10-year yield to a two-month low of 2.124 percent US10YT=RR.

On Monday, U.S. shares were narrowly mixed as investors tried to assess the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years when it came ashore on Friday.

U.S. gasoline priced RBc1 surged as much as 7 percent to a peak of $1.7799 per gallon on Monday, the highest since late July 2015. It last stood at $1.7317 in early Tuesday trade.

Going in the opposite direction, U.S. Crude oil prices CLc1 hit one-month lows on Monday, on worries refinery shutdowns due to the flooding could boost inventory.

U.S. crude futures stood at $46.79 per barrel in early Tuesday trade, up 0.5 percent on the day, after having fallen to as low as $46.15 on Monday.


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