Nikkei edges down ahead of holiday as investors warily eye North Korea

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is closed as Typhoon Haima approaches in Hong Kong

The euro was down 0.3% at just over US$1.17 and nearing a two-week low, while the New Zealand dollar tumbled a full 1% as its central bank head bluntly said he wanted it lower. Bond and gold prices, traditional havens for nervous investors, were little changed, and the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, slid 6.7 percent following a 44.4 percent jump the day before.

Weakness in U.S. Treasury yields may also be supporting the yen, some analysts said.

Chief market analyst at CMC Markets Micheal Hewson agreed that investors have become used to tensions between the US and North Korea in recent years, but the "inexperience" of the US President has led market participants to adopt a "safety-first" approach.

The VIX rose further on Wednesday, rising as far as 12.11, its highest in nearly a month.

ANALYST TAKE: "We're seeing significant risk aversion in the markets on Wednesday, with the escalation in tensions between the USA and North Korea triggering moves into safe haven assets", said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 share index closed down 1.3 per cent at its lowest since June 1 as the strong yen hit exporters, while South Korea's KOSPI index fell 1.1 per cent to seven-week lows.

The dollar was steady against a basket of six major currencies at 93.385 after falling 0.2 per cent on Thursday, with disappointing United States inflation and jobs data adding to the greenback's woes.

MSCI's main index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, was last down 0.6 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6 percent.

Instead, investors turned to assets that tend to benefit in times of geopolitical and financial stress.

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In currencies, the yen strengthened 0.64 percent versus the greenback at 109.37 per dollar. Asian and European stocks continued the sharp decline Friday.

Australian shares were down 1.3 per cent, set for a weekly loss of 0.5 per cent.

"We're not very oversold yet so the market still has more downside left to it", said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in NY.

Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.2255 percent, from 2.242 percent late on Wednesday.

Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent to 12,068 and the CAC 40 of France lost 0.3 percent to 5,133.

U.S. Treasury prices finished lower, with the two-year yield (1.36%) and 10-year yield (2.28%) higher by one and three bps, respectively.

More than 430 stocks from all USA exchanges hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks or more yesterday, the most for any session since mid-November right after Trump was elected.

In the latest economic data, the consumer-price index (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-consumer-inflation-remains-soft-in-july-cpi-shows-2017-08-11) rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in July, its fifth straight month of softness, raising more questions about whether inflation will eventually rise to hit the Federal Reserve's 2% annual rate target.

In commodities trading, USA crude oil was wallowing around $49 to the barrel amid speculation that a predicted gain in American output will offset OPEC-led efforts to trim a global glut.

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