Tokyo stocks flat by noon; eyes on US-N. Korea tensions

A stock quotation board displays the Nikkei 225 key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in front of a securities company in Tokyo on August 9.
Tokyo stocks fell on the morning of August 9 as growing tensions between the United States and North Korea stoked yen-buying, which dented Japanese exporters. / AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Tokyo stocks were flat Thursday morning after a sell-off the previous day sparked by fears over United States-North Korea tensions, while Japanese cosmetic giant Shiseido surged on upbeat earnings.

Global markets tumbled Wednesday as US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ratcheted up their confrontational rhetoric, with the nuclear-armed North rolling out a plan to launch missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Trump had stunned the world by saying the North faced “fire and fury like the world has never seen” over its nuclear and missile programmes.

However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to play down tensions, saying: “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

“The comments by the Secretary of State is a message that nothing important has been decided on North Korea,” Haruki Kawaguchi, a manager in the stock trading department at Marusan Securities, told Bloomberg News.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index was flat, slipping 0.01 percent, or 1.99 points, to sit at 19,736.72 by the break while the Topix index of all first-section issues fell 0.13 percent, or 2.04 points, to 1,615.86.

Japanese financial markets will be closed Friday for a national holiday.

“Amid tensions in the international arena, it’s difficult to seek higher prices ahead of three days of holidays,” Kawaguchi said.

Shiseido shares soared 14.54 percent to 4,450 yen after the makeup company upgraded its annual sales and profit forecasts, and announced robust earnings for the January-June period.

Shiseido said its six-month operating profit jumped 73.9 percent to 34.7 billion yen, thanks to strong sales of high-end products and healthy demand from Chinese customers.

Toyota rose 0.69 percent to 6,279 yen while Sony fell 1.25 percent to 4,347 yen and Panasonic was off 0.87 percent to sit at 1,473.5 yen.

In forex trading, the dollar fetched 110.06 yen, slightly up from 110.02 yen in New York and 109.74 yen in Tokyo Wednesday.