TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks came under pressure on Thursday as the threat of imminent U.S. military action in Syria rattled investors and sent oil prices to their highest levels since late 2014 on concerns about supply.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.3 percent while Japan's Nikkei .N225 was down slightly.
Trump declared that missiles “will be coming” in Syria, taunting Russia for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a suspected chemical attack on rebels. Damascus and Moscow have denied any responsibility.
His comments raised the prospect of direct conflict over Syria for the first time between the two world powers backing opposing sides in the seven-year-old civil war, which has also escalated a rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Last year Russia and Syria did not shoot back against U.S. missiles. But this time the scale of possible attacks by the U.S. and possibly its allies seems larger. If Russia fires back, the war front will be bigger,” said Hidenori Suezawa, financial market analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities.
“I don’t think we are heading into the World War Three but should there be a direct collision between the U.S. and Russia for the first time, that’s the sort of headline that would plunge stock prices,” he added.
The tension intensified in another front as Saudi Arabia said its air defense forces intercepted three ballistic missiles fired