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Nikkei Asia300 Index falls as investors dump risk assets amid North Korea tension

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan declined Wednesday as escalating geopolitical tensions over North Korea prompted investors to flee risk assets.

The Nikkei Asia 300 Index fell 0.5% to 1,293.70.

South Korean stocks led the losses after North Korea said it is examining an operational plan to strike around the U.S. territory of Guam. The statement, carried by state-run KCNA news agency, was made by a Korean People's Army spokesman. The comments came after President Donald Trump warned North Korea of severe repercussions if it continued to threaten the U.S. The Korean won dropped 0.9% against the dollar.

The Nikkei index for South Korea fell 1.5%. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics lost 3% and SK Hynix, the world's biggest memory chip maker after Samsung, dropped 3.2%. Thirty of the 42 stocks on the Nikkei South Korea index ended lower.

European equities fell and the U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower opening on Wall Street. Rising demand for safe-haven assets lifted U.S. Treasuries, gold and the Japanese yen.

The country index for China slipped 0.2%. The Hong Kong gauge ended little changed.

Wharf Holdings, a subsidiary of developer Wheelock, soared 14% after its net profit increased 26% in the first half and announced a 10% increase in dividend per share, both ahead of street expectations. The gains were also helped by its plans to demerge its Hong Kong investment properties as Real Estate Investment Co. Shares of Wheelock jumped 11%.

The surge in Wharf lifted other Hong Kong developers. Henderson Land Development advanced 2.6% and New World Development climbed 1.9%.

The Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing slipped 1.2% even as it reported a 17% increase in the first-half net income from a year earlier period.

Nikkei's India country index slipped 0.3%.

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries declined 5.4% after its U.S. unit Taro Pharmaceutical Industries reported weaker-than-expected June quarter earnings. Tata Motors dropped 3.2% ahead of its first-quarter earnings due later Wednesday.

The Nikkei's index for Taiwan dropped 1.1%.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies ended little changed. Singapore markets were closed Wednesday for National Day.

MISC fell 2% in Kuala Lumpur after the shipping company said Tuesday its net profit for the second quarter fell 59%, mainly due to an impairment loss on ships, property, plant and equipment.

Malaysian glove maker Hartalega Holdings slipped 3.1%, as at least two brokerages downgraded the glove maker, citing high valuations. The stock had rallied over 45% this year through Tuesday. For the first quarter, the company reported a 72% rise in net profit.

--Nimesh Vora and V. Phani Kumar

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