North Korea announced testing a hydrogen nuclear bomb, its fourth test so far, and setting off thereafter fears of rising tensions in the region. Investors flocked to buy the safe-haven yen, helping it touch a fresh 11-week high against the dollar at 118.62, up 0.35% for the day. Yen surged to a 14-month high against sterling at 173.86, up 0.46%. It jumped to an 8-1/2 month high against the euro at 127.46 with a 0.34% profit.
Asian shares fell broadly as rising regional tensions came with more weakness from China, as a private survey showed Services PMI slipping to 50.2 for December, considerably lower than November's 51.2, and barely above 50 which separates growth from contraction. Japan's Nikkei dived to a 10-week low, down 1.30%. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.20%, while South Korea's KOSPI gave up half a percent. China's CSI300 index rose marginally however by 0.20%, as the government unleashed a slew of measures to help lift stocks.
Wall Street closed with mixed results, with Dow Jones up 9.72 points, or 0.06% to 17,158.66. NASDAQ dipped 11.66 points, or 0.24% to 4,891. S&P 500 rose 4.05 points, or 0.20% to 2,016.71.
Oil prices remained under pressure due to excessive supply and a strengthening dollar. Brent crude futures lost 12 cents, or 0.33% to $36.50 a barrel, not far from an 11-year low at $35.98. U.S. West Texas Intermediary (WTI) crude futures were barely up by 7 cents, or 0.19% to $36.04 a barrel.
Canadian dollar tumbled to a 12-1/2 year low at C$1.4026, as slumping oil prices put negative pressure on the commodity-reliant Canadian economy. Australian dollar hit a three-week low at $0.7124, while New Zealand's Kiwi slid to a 4-week low at $0.6656.
A slew of crucial data is due for release today; from the U.K., Services PMI is forecast at 55.6 for December, marginally lower than November's 55.9, but still an indication of strong growth in the sector, which might be good news for the battered sterling.
From the U.S., crude oil inventories are forecast to have fallen half a million barrels last week, which would be positive for oil prices.