Investors seek safety as N. Korea tension escalates; stocks off, gold up

Investors seek safety as N. Korea tension escalates; stocks off, gold up

Investors seek safety as N. Korea tension escalates; stocks off, gold up

Banks and retail chains were also among the big decliners.

"What has changed this time is that the scary threats and war of words between the US and North Korea have intensified to the point that markets can't ignore it", said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney.

Among other markets, oil prices advanced after a US Department of Energy report showed lower oil inventories.

At 12:28 p.m. ET (1628 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 52.87 points, or 0.24 percent, at 22,032.47, the S&P 500 was down 2.8 points, or 0.11 percent, at 2,472.12. The Nasdaq composite lost 18.13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,352.33. The stock lost $142.20 to $1,906.80.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 39.02 points to 15,217.33 in a broad-based decline that saw many sectors finish in the red while bullion stocks surged almost 1.9 per cent.

North Korea said on Wednesday it is "carefully examining" plans for a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after US President Donald Trump told the North that any threat it presented to the United States would be met with "fire and fury".

About 6.22 billion shares changed hands on US stock exchanges, slightly above the 6.15 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

Overseas, European markets were trading lower by noon on the continent, while the Nikkei 225 in Japan doffed 0.1%, and Shanghai's CSI 300 fell 0.4%. Natural gas was also flat at $2.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Seagate Technology gained 2.3 percent after investor ValueAct disclosed that it had acquired a 7.2 percent stake in the digital storage company. Asian and American markets also struggled.

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Disappointing company earnings and outlooks put traders in a selling mood.

Macy's was down 4.4 percent after the company said its sales continued to decline in the second quarter. On the Nasdaq, 1,846 issues fell and 953 advanced favoring decliners.

A notable decline by Disney (DIS) is weighing on the Dow, with the entertainment giant slumping by 3.9% on the day. Its shares tumbled $11.35 to $61.99.

Bond prices were little changed. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.25 percent from 2.26 percent late Tuesday.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 39 cents to settle at $49.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, rose 20 cents to $52.10 a barrel in London.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.35 per cent versus the greenback at 109.94 per dollar. It was last up 0.0 percent at 1.1329 per euro. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index has fallen by 1.6% and is on pace to end the session at its lowest closing level in over eight years.

In Europe, Germany's DAX fell 1.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 slid 1.4 percent. Viacom slid 60 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $30.17.

Stocks ended more than one percent down in Seoul while the won slumped to a three-week low against the dollar as the United States president and South Korea´s volatile neighbour dramatically ramped up their war of words.

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