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Thursday, July 6, 2006

Stock market analysts unfazed by missile tests


Staff writer

The benchmark Nikkei stock index fell Wednesday as investors were temporarily spooked by North Korean missile tests over the Sea of Japan earlier in the morning. Stocks closed at 15,523.94, down 114.56 points from Tuesday.

But analysts and observers downplayed the tests, calling them an idle threat aimed at bringing the United States to the negotiating table and adding they would have no long-term impact on the economy.

The 225 Nikkei stock average seesawed throughout the day as some investors reacted to the latest diplomatic ruckus caused by North Korea's missile launches. Others took advantage of the dip in prices to snap up stocks.

The Nikkei fell below 15,500 in the morning, rallied to 15,570.40 at the end of the morning session and again turned south in the afternoon, hitting 15,479.93 at one point.

Takahira Ogawa, director of the sovereign credit ratings division at Standard & Poor's, said he has no plans to revise credit ratings for Japan despite the rising tension in the region.

"When North Korea launched a missile in 1998, there was a great impact from the political aspect but there was almost none in terms of macroeconomics," said Ogawa. "That is likely to be the case this time as well."

Any such revision in Japan's credit rating would only happen if a North Korean attack on Japan takes place or if the two countries go to war, Ogawa said.

Hiroki Shimazu, market economist at Mizuho Securities Co., agreed with that coolheaded assessment, saying the launches will not have a big impact on the stock market unless Pyongyang fires missiles every day.

"The market responded in a fashion typical to such incidents. Dollars and bonds were purchased and stocks sold," said Shimazu.

The dollar was trading at 114.72 against the yen on the Tokyo foreign-exchange market at 3 p.m. Wednesday, up 0.16 from late European trading. The euro climbed to $1.2834, from $1.2798.

Japan's 10-year government bond rose to 1.9700 percent, from Tuesday's finish of 1.9650 percent.

Investors are more interested in the fundamentals of the Japanese economy than geopolitical risks, Shimazu said, adding that U.S. employment figures, which will be released Friday, are likely to have a greater impact on the market next week than the missile launches.



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