Fearing nuclear winter, investors bought Swiss francs

Buy signal.
Buy signal.
Image: Reuters/United States Air Force
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Donald Trump’s threat to unleash ”fire and fury like the world has never seen” upon North Korea sent people seeking refuge—in the Swiss franc. The US president’s comments, following reports that Pyongyang may may have the technology to hit American territory with a missile strike, led to the biggest one-day rally in the franc against the euro in more than a year.

The Swissie, as traders sometimes call the currency, tends to gain during times of economic or geopolitical stress. That’s because Switzerland is a rich country with healthy finances and few geopolitical entanglements. Other haven assets like gold also rose, but not substantially. The jump in the franc after the Brexit vote in June last year was bigger than today’s upward lurch on fears of a nuclear conflict.

In response to Trump’s threat, a report on state-run media in North Korea said it would “turn the US mainland into the theater of a nuclear war” if it looked like America was going to attack.

Although the victor in a military conflict between the US and North Korea is not in doubt, many scenarios predict millions of deaths in a short, brutal war, especially now that Pyongyang is making advances in putting nukes on missiles and Trump has taken to emphasizing how America’s atomic arsenal is “far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”