Wall Street falls as investors flee risk on N. Korea concerns

Financial Markets Wall Street- US stocks close slightly lower trimming earlier losses

Financial Markets Wall Street- US stocks close slightly lower trimming earlier losses

The dollar skidded to an eight-week low against the yen on Friday as escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea triggered yet more investor flight to safety.

The S&P 500 Index closed 1.5 percent lower, the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.1 percent and the Dow Jones Composite fell 1.4 percent. The S&P 500 gained 3.11 points, or 0.1%, to end at 2,441.32, supported by gains in consumer-discretionary, technology and health-care sectors.

The Swiss franc eased about 0.2 percent to 0.9658 per dollar, having surged roughly 1.1 percent on Wednesday. There is keen anxiety in the marketplace after U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea there would be "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if the Asian nation keeps threatening the U.S. North Korea responded by saying it may fire a missile toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

The three major USA indices have sold off this week amid investors' jitters after Trump said on Tuesday that threats from Pyongyang would be "met with fire and fury like the world has never seen". Oil prices were headed higher.

The decline followed overnight losses on Wall Street.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea revealed a plan to launch ballistic missiles toward a major USA military hub in the Pacific. The Commerce Department said wholesale inventories climbed by 0.7 percent in June after rising by an upwardly revised 0.6 percent in May. On the Nasdaq, 1,846 issues fell and 953 advanced favouring decliners.

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More than 430 stocks from all US exchanges hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks or more on Thursday, the most for any session since mid-November right after Trump was elected.

South Korea's won currency dropped 0.9 per cent against the dollar to its lowest close since July 13. Against the yen, the euro last traded at 128.29 yen, down 0.2 percent.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX - 15.51) lost 0.5 point, or 3.3%, but touched an intraday high of 17.28 today - its highest point since the day after the presidential election.

Instead, investors turned to assets that tend to benefit in times of geopolitical and financial stress.

The U.S. currency was down 0.4 percent at 109.865 yen, following a retreat to 109.835, its weakest since mid-June. They outweighed gains in health care stocks and elsewhere.

The yen on Friday added to a strong weekly rally against the dollar of close to 1.5 percent, hitting its highest versus the greenback in nearly four months, at 108.73 yen.

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"The markets are looking for direction after Wednesday's sharp moves and geopolitical concerns will dominate investor mindsets in the coming days", said Esther Maria Reichelt, an FX strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

The euro was 0.45 percent weaker at 129.125 yen and the Australian dollar slipped 0.7 percent to 86.66 yen. The stock lost $142.20 to $1,906.80.

Yields on core government debt fell. Discovery Communications fell 70 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $23.60. Gold extended its gains into a third day, hitting a 9-week high of $1287.73 an ounce.

Flight to safety has helped lift the Japanese yen and gold prices, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an explicit threat on Wednesday to strike a USA military base in Guam.

A report released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday showed wholesale inventories in the US rose by slightly more than expected in the month of June.

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