wsj-European and Asian stocks had a muted start to the week, with holidays set to slow activity world-wide on Monday.
The Stoxx Europe 600 was almost flat shortly after the market opened on Monday, while German and French markets were slightly down.
In Asia, investors again shrugged off a North Korean missile launch. The East Asian country fired an unidentified projectile within about 320 kilometers (200 miles) off Japan’s coastline early Monday, the third week in a row that Asian investors started the week having to include a North Korea missile launch in their decision-making process.
South Korea, arguably the most at risk sentiment-wise to worries about North Korea, continued to see investor interest Monday as the Kospi benchmark stock index powered to fresh record highs and was again the region’s best performer. It was recently up 0.5% and the Korean won fell but 0.1% on the session versus the dollar.
“The market is quite desensitized” at this point to North Korea’s launches, said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Group .
There was also no sign of investors seeking safety, with gold and currencies little changed. Some previous North Korean missile launches caused some yen selling, for example, but market participants have become less concerned by North Korea’s actions over time.
Trading in Asia was lighter than normal as markets in China and Taiwan were closed for holidays Monday. Markets in the U.K. and U.S. will also be dark.
Instead of geopolitics, local issues continue to be front of mind for many Asia investors.
That includes South Korea. Strong expectations of a resurgent Korean economy, driven by exports, and the Bank of Korea seen remaining accommodative, augur well for both equities and the won, said Masashi Murata, a senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.
It is also the case in Australia, where stocks have trailed badly this month amid noted weakness in the country’s big banks following a soft earnings season and prospect of a new federal tax. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was recently off 0.5% amid a 1% drop in the financials subindex. The latter is down 10% for May.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average gained 0.2%, though steel stocks like Nippon and JFE fell nearly 2.5% due to falling prices for their products.
One market to watch in the days ahead will be the British pound.
Sterling logged its biggest decline against the U.S. dollar in four months on Friday after an opinion poll showed a decline in support for the ruling Conservatives and a resurgence for the Labour Party. Other polls released over the weekend showed similar results, suggesting the possibility of a smaller working majority for Prime Minister Theresa May’s party or even a hung parliament, weakening Mrs. May’s hand for Brexit-related negotiations after next week’s elections.
Ahead later this week are manufacturing data via purchasing-managers reports and Friday’s U.S. jobs data. The latter is likely to be “elevated in importance,” with money managers using it as a gauge to guide their rate expectations, Ms. Pan said.