July 5, 2017 / 2:27 AM / a year ago

Nikkei skids to near 3-week low as Korean tensions sap confidence

TOKYO, July 5 (Reuters) - Japan’s Nikkei share average slipped to its lowest level in nearly three weeks on Wednesday amid heightened tensions following North Korea’s ballistic missile launch, while automakers managed to extend gains on encouraging sales.

The Nikkei share average was down 0.7 percent at 19,899.69 after plumbing 19,888.90, its lowest since June 16.

Bereft of Wall Street leads as U.S. markets were closed on Tuesday for a national holiday, the Nikkei stuck to a relatively narrow range.

“U.S. Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson mentioning North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) early this morning has caused the market to remain cautious,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist t Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

“At the same time, the domestic market is retaining a fair degree of calm regarding the situation, while waiting to see how the United States responds to North Korea’s actions.”

Tillerson called for global action after North Korea tested a newly developed ICBM, calling it a new escalation of Pyongyang’s nuclear threat.

Defence industry-related firms slipped after surging the previous day in response to Pyongyang’s ICBM launch.

Ishikawa Seisakusho Ltd, a maker of defence equipment including landmines, fell 4.4 percent after rallying roughly 20 percent the previous day. Howa Machinery, a manufacturer that supplies firearms and mortars to Japan’s military, was down 1.4 percent after rising 2.9 percent on Tuesday. Defence system equipment maker Nippon Avionics Co shed 3.2 percent following the previous day’s rise of 5.6 percent.

Automakers extended gains from Tuesday, when they rose on data pointing to stronger-than-expected June U.S. vehicle sales.

Subaru Corp rose 2.1 percent and Nissan Motor Co edged up 0.8 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp was up 1 percent after it announced late on Tuesday that its June China vehicle sales rose 10 percent from a year earlier, compared to an increase of 9.6 percent in May.

Oncolys Biopharma Inc rose as much as 8.4 percent after the biopharmaceutical developer announced that OBP-1101 (TelomeScan F35), a tumour cell detection adenovirus agent the company is developing, received a U.S. patent grant.

The broader Topix lost 0.4 percent to 1,603.96. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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