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

An exhibit at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul

An exhibit at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul

The Swiss franc rallied hard against the euro and the USA dollar on Wednesday, as increased tensions between the United States and North Korea led investors to look for assets deemed as less risky.

The comments came just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told North Korea that any threat to the United States would be met with "fire and fury", rattling markets globally.

Futures pointed to further declines on Wall Street, with S&P 500 futures down 0.4 percent and Dow futures falling 0.3 percent. The Russell 2000 index gave up 1.7 percent to 1,372.54. The dollar index, which measures the US currency against a basket of other major currencies, fell 0.14 percent.

The influential financial stocks were among the biggest drags on the index, with Royal Bank of Canada down 1.5 percent to C$92.88, and Manulife Financial Corp falling 4.7 percent to C$24.43, its largest drop since early August previous year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 70.4 points, or 0.32 percent, to 22,014.94, the S&P 500 lost 5.51 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,469.41 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 31.19 points, or 0.49 percent, to 6,339.27.

The US dollar was down 0.77 per cent against the yen at 109.21 yen.

Stock markets nosedived Thursday as investors continued moving into gold amid escalating political tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Against the dollar, the franc surged 0.6 percent to 0.9688 francs, reversing a two-week losing streak.

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The franc wasn't the only beneficiary to the risk-off sentiment sweeping markets. The 30-year bond last rose 28/32 in price to yield 2.7759 percent, from 2.818 percent late on Wednesday. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.13 percent higher, while Japan's Nikkei .N225 lost 0.30 percent.

The market jitters gave investors an opportunity to pocket some of their recent gains following a string of record highs fueled by strong corporate earnings.

U.S. Treasury long-dated yields dropped to six-week lows, pressured by U.S.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.2255 per cent, from 2.242 per cent late on Wednesday.

Oil prices settled lower after a volatile session on increasing exports from key OPEC producers and news of lower crude shipments from Saudi Arabia.

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

"We've had some competing forces play out over the past 12 hours - the United States dollar was stronger off economic data, but that was quickly reversed with President Trump's comments about North Korea earlier today (Wednesday)", said ANZ analyst Daniel Hynes. Spot gold added 0.7 percent to $1,286.00 an ounce. It was on course for an over 5 percent weekly rise, the highest such gain since July 2016.

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