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US: S&P closes barely lower despite North Korea tensions

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[NEW YORK] US stocks clawed back losses late on Wednesday as investors appeared to brush off geopolitical concerns after falling in the wake of US President Donald Trump's "fire and fury" warning to North Korea.

Bargain-seeking investors instead turned their focus to strength in the global economy and earnings toward the end of an active trading day.

"It's amazing when you consider the headlines just how calm the equity markets are, how they've taken things in their stride," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"There was some skittishness earlier but then some buyers stepped in," he said.

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Investors had rushed to safe-haven assets after strongly worded exchanges between Washington and nuclear-armed North Korea late on Tuesday. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not believe there was an imminent threat.

"You'd need to see something more tangible than just rhetoric for a broader pullback," said Richard Steinberg, managing director at HSW Advisors, a finance team within HighTower Advisors, in New York.

After a dip of as much as 0.52 per cent earlier in the day, Wall Street's three major indexes bounced off intraday lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36.64 points, or 0.17 per cent, to end at 22,048.7, the S&P 500 lost 0.9 point, or 0.04 per cent, to 2,474.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.13 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 6,352.33.

While gold, a safe-haven favourite, pared some gains, it was last up 1.2 per cent, at around its highest since mid-June. The Swiss franc and the Japanese yen also rose.

Politics lifted US defence stocks. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman all rose and the Dow Jones US defence index was up 1.6 per cent after hitting a record high.

The CBOE Volatility Index, the most widely followed barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, ended at a session low of 11.11 after rising as high as 12.63.

Six of the S&P 500 sectors ended higher. The consumer discretionary index was one of its biggest losers with a 0.47 per cent drop. Its biggest drags were Priceline and Walt Disney.

Disney shares closed down 3.9 per cent as investors were skeptical of its plan to launch streaming services rather than rely on Netflix.

Travel website operator Priceline Group Inc fell 6.9 per cent after a disappointing financial forecast.

After the bell, Twenty-First Century Fox shares were up 0.7 per cent following the release of its results.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.29-to-one ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.47-to-one ratio favoured decliners.

About 6.48 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges on Wednesday compared with the 6.16 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

REUTERS

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