Global safe-haven trades jump on escalating North Korea tensions

Traditional global safe-haven trades like gold and the Swiss franc rose Wednesday as tensions between the United States and North Korea escalated.

The euro fell about 1.3 percent against the Swiss franc and was on track for its biggest one-day loss in 2½ years as investors flocked to the currency considered one of the oldest and safest investments.

Gold prices jumped, with futures for December delivery trading 1.25 percent higher at $1,278.40 per ounce.

German and U.S. sovereign bond prices also rose on the fear trade, sending yields lower despite recent strong readings of economic growth. The 10-year German bund yield traded at 0.421 percent while the 10-year U.S. yield declined to 2.22 percent.

President Donald Trump warned North Korea on Tuesday about facing “fire and fury” if Pyongyang makes more threats against the U.S.

The CBOE volatility index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, hit its highest level in one month, surging more than 10 percent.

Trump’s remarks, which were delivered less than an hour before the end of Tuesday’s trading session, sent stocks to their session lows. The selling carried through on Wednesday morning, with U.S. stocks falling.

“The North Korean threat has been present in one form or another for some time, and despite periods of nervousness, markets generally have not tended to focus on it too much,” Stuart Culverhouse, global head of macro and fixed income research at Exotix Capital, said in an email.

“Now, with the tension between the US and DPRK reaching a level that appears somewhat unprecedented in the last decade, if not longer, the question is whether this time is different,” he said.

Shortly after Trump made his remarks, North Korea said it was “carefully examining” the idea of a missile strike on Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory.

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