Kim Jong-Un looks like he’s losing his ability to move markets.
As noted on Thursday evening, the early knee-jerk reaction to Pyongyang’s latest provocation was faded pretty much from the open in Asia and that continued throughout the overnight.
“Asian currencies are likely to be rangebound, as I don’t think tensions are going to be long lasting,” Sim Moh Siong, a currency strategist at Bank of Singapore said on Friday. “We have seen missile launches before. We have seen the nuclear test, but unless it reaches an actual conflict, impact in terms of flight to safety should be temporary in nature.”
And “temporary in nature” in was. Have a look at Kospi volatility, which spiked at the open before ultimately retreating:
And here’s the Nikkei, which quickly pared losses to finish solidly higher:
In fact, this was the best week for Japanese shares since April:
And that’s thanks in no small part to the yen, which is perhaps the best way to visualize how quickly markets faded the North Korea news. Have a look:
“As long as investors aren’t looking at a breach of the 108 yen per dollar level, which is the average currency rate local companies are basing their forecasts on, earnings outlooks will remain status quo,” Shunichi Umeda, a senior market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute observed overnight, adding that “it seems short-covering kicked in after seeing the missile launch wasn’t likely to develop into something worse than people thought.”
A word of caution though when it comes to looking at Japanese stocks and the yen as indicators of market angst re: North Korea. The fact that Japan is (literally) in the line of fire might be diminishing the yen’s appeal as a safe haven. If that’s the case and the yen isn’t catching the same bid as it would were the crisis emanating from somewhere other than North Korea, then USDJPY and Japanese equities (which rise when the yen falls) might not be telegraphing what you think they are.
On that note, we’ll leave you with the following from Bloomberg’s Anchalee Worrachate:
The yen is the worst performer today among major currencies following North Korea‘s second missile launch over Japan. Hang on! Isn’t it supposed to be a haven currency? In previous rounds of tensions, it did well. What’s going on here? Some long-term investors suggest they still see JPY as a haven currency by virtue of Japan’s current-account surplus, but the country’s proximity to North Korea and escalation of the threat from Pyongyang damps that appeal somewhat. It does feel a bit uncomfortable when you have a rather erratic leader with dangerous toys threatening to sink your island. Another theory also views the yen as very much a haven currency and it fell for a good reason, i.e., the market sees Kim Jong-Un’s stunt as a bluff.