Asian markets struggle on geopolitical fears

HONG KONG: Asian traders moved uneasily Tuesday as geopolitical concerns came back to the fore following a deadly suspected attack in Berlin, while they also wind down going into the Christmas break.


The euro struggled to gain any traction against the dollar while higher-risk investments were also under pressure as dealers shifted to safety.

At least 12 people were killed and dozens injured late Monday when a lorry was driven into a packed Berlin Christmas market, fuelling fears of a terror attack.

That came after an off-duty policeman shot dead Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, prompting a vow from President Vladimir Putin to step up the fight against “terrorism”. Also Monday, three people were hurt in a gun attack on a mosque in Zurich.

The incidents led to a promise by US President-elect Donald Trump to wipe “terrorists” off the face of the earth.

“There are some investors who might see something like the assassination in Turkey and the potential terror attack in Berlin as opportunities to lock in profits with a couple of weeks left in the year,” Philip Orlando, chief equities strategist at Federated Investors, in New York, told Bloomberg News.

Monday’s events come as geopolitical tension was ratcheted up after China last week seized an unmanned US sea survey probe from international waters in the South China Sea.

That sparked a rebuke from Trump, raising fears about future US ties with China, with the tycoon already hitting out at Beijing in recent weeks over several issues from Taiwan to trade.

On stock markets Japan’s Nikkei was off 0.1 percent and Hong Kong was flat, while Shanghai dipped 0.4 percent. Taipei slipped 0.2 percent and Manila 0.6 percent while there were also losses in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

However, Sydney added 0.7 percent and Seoul gained 0.2 percent.

In forex trade Tuesday the euro bought $1.0412, slightly up from Monday but unable to break out of a downward spiral that could see it hit parity with the greenback for the first time since late 2002.

And the yen, which is a go-to unit in times of uncertainty and turmoil, picked up against the dollar.

The dollar has been unable to build on last week’s surge fuelled by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike and indication that it will lift them another three times next year.



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