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North KoreaMonday 18th September 2017
One of the biggest threats, currently, to investors – not to mention the global population – is the possibility of a war breaking out that involves North Korea.
The potential loss of life is unimaginable should this situation go the distance but rational thought marks it out as the mother of all brinksmanship – up there with Cuba and the US in 1963 – and quite likely amounting to nothing more than posturing on both sides.
After all, the US is unlikely to carry out its threat of ‘stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea’ when it imported $479bn worth of goods and services from China last year (China being North Korea’s only backer). That said, some analysts believe there is still the risk of targeted sanctions on Chinese companies – and this escalation of trade tensions between the two powers is more of a concern to markets than the risk of all out war. Even if Kim Jong Un is apparently willing to put his head in the mouths of both those lions.
But financial markets are able to absorb good news and ignore bad news – and lately they have been able to extend that mode from political to geopolitical. Apart from slight tremors, market reaction has been relatively muted and stock market losses relatively measured even in nearby countries such as South Korea and Japan. For investors with a liking for high risk, the falls of 1% or 2% each time a missile launches could present a buying opportunity on the basis of a period of calm following. Definitely not for the faint-hearted though.
Of course there has been a beneficiary within this unsettling period and, unsurprisingly, it’s gold. Having had quite a good run in the summer the price spiked to a 12 month high of $1335 following the first missile launches. With City opinion thinking that although the price has accommodated a ‘war premium’ a continuing stand off could see it rise a little more. The downside for gold though, but upside for the human race, is that the threat fizzles out in the end. Still, it’s comforting to know that gold’s out there when you’re running for the hills.