US stocks slip amid heightened US-North Korea tensions

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York U.S

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York U.S

Even so, the close was the highest in a month.

North Korea said it was completing plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in an unusually detailed threat.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Pyongyang it should stop any actions that would lead to the "end of its regime and the destruction of its people".

Investors had rushed to safe-haven assets after strongly worded exchanges between Washington and nuclear-armed North Korea late on Tuesday.

"Right now the market is viewing it as a lot of saber-rattling and a lot of smoke, but not much fire", said Darrell Cronk, president of Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

"The strong global economy driven by strong earnings is really helping to minimise some of these concerns".

"Particularly that 108.10/108.00 level, a break below those levels would really set up a rapid move to the downside", he said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9 per cent to end at 21,844.01, the only close below 22,000 since breaking through that level for the first time August 2.

The euro was down 0.4 percent at just over $1.17 and nearing a two-week low, while the New Zealand dollar tumbled a full 1 percent as its central bank head bluntly said he wanted it lower. Germany's DAX fell 0.9 percent, while the CAC 40 in France lost 0.5 percent.

The CBOE Volatility Index .VIX , a barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, closed at its highest since the election.

Traditional safe-haven currencies including the Swiss franc and Japanese yen rose against the U.S. dollar.

USA crude oil futures settled almost 2 per cent lower at $48.59 a barrel, as Russian Federation considered a future output resumption and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries boosted its July production numbers.

Materials, a sector that includes gold producers and other resource-based companies, was the lone gainer among the index's 10 main sectors, rising 0.7 per cent.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.08 per cent versus the greenback at 110.00 per dollar.

Japan is the world's biggest creditor nation and there is an assumption investors there will repatriate funds should a crisis eventuate. USA and British equivalents were also trading a touch above Wednesday's six-week lows.

"Geopolitical tensions are the main focus: the S&P 500 was down 1.5% last night and many investors are becoming risk averse", said DZ Bank strategist Andy Cossor.

Investors opted for the perceived safety of US Treasuries, which pushed the yield on the 10-year note three basis points lower to 2.21%.

"Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him", a report by the North's state-run KCNA news agency said of Trump. Brent crude, used to price global oils, added 21 cents to $52.91.

USA crude rose 0.69 per cent to US$49.51 per barrel and Brent was last at US$52.66, up 1 per cent on the day.

The market's main backstop in times of strain, gold, hit a two-month high of $1,282 an ounce amid the nervousness.

And in a textbook-type cross-asset move toward safety in times of trouble, the Japanese yen hit an eight-week high against the USA dollar while spot gold also reached a two-month high. Silver gained 20 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $17.07 an ounce.

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