Japan’s Nikkei share average touched its lowest intraday level in almost four months on Tuesday, as a missile fired by North Korea over Japan put investors on edge and increased the yen’s safe-haven appeal. The Nikkei ended 0.5 percent lower at 19,362.55. At one point in the morning, it reached 19,280.02, a 0.9 percent drop for the day and the lowest level since May 1.
The benchmark index, which has lost 1.2 percent in August, fell below its 200-day moving average for the first time since November. “Risk-off phenomenon is a factor today,” said Stefan Worrall, director of Japan equity sales at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. “But what is more important to the broader context is that we’re coming to the end of the summer period, as the end of August is usually the slowest period for markets.”
Tensions on the Korean peninsula had eased in recent sessions, but Pyongyang rekindled them by firing a missile on Tuesday morning that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific waters off the northern region of Hokkaido. That pushed the perceived safe-haven yen higher against the dollar, which was down 0.4 percent at 108.65 yen after hitting 108.320, its lowest since April 18.
The yen tends to benefit during periods of geopolitical stress on the assumption that Japanese investors will repatriate funds in a crisis. Still, some major exporters shrugged off the stronger Japanese currency. Nissan Motor Co, rose 0.4 percent; Subaru Corp inched up 0.1 cent higher and Hitachi Ltd ended 0.4 percent higher.
But brokerage stocks were hit, with Nomura Holdings and Daiwa Securities both down 0.8 percent. Kumagai Gumi soared 4.4 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported the construction company’s dividend payout ratio would likely rise to up to 30 percent as early as the year ending March 2019.
The broader Topix dropped 0.2 percent to 1,597.76.