5 things for Wednesday, August 9: North Korea, opioid epidemic, African politics

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

Stock markets around the world were under pressure on Wednesday amid increased tensions between the USA and North Korea following comments from President Donald Trump, and big entertainment stocks were among the many decliners.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 35 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,438, its biggest drop since mid-May.

In earnings news, retailers were under pressure after Macy's and Kohl's each reported lower second-quarter sales, reviving worries about consumer discretionary stocks.

Dai-ichi Life Holdings dropped 1 percent, T&D Holdings fell 2.2 percent while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group declined 0.9 percent. Sony Corp. shares in Tokyo dropped 1.6 percent.

Trump, whose threat this week to bring "fire and fury" was dismissed by North Korea, said Thursday his statement might not have been "tough enough".

Escalating tension between the USA and North Korea has dominated sentiment in financial markets this week as the spat threatens to boil over into military confrontation.

Sterling was little changed at US$1.30 and near a 2-1/2-week low, as investors looked to key data due next week for clues on the health of the British economy as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Has $332000 Position in Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE:OA)
The aerospace company reported $1.56 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $1.45 by $0.11. Highbridge Capital Management LLC bought a new position in Orbital ATK during the first quarter worth approximately $252,000.

Commenting on the impact of the political sabre-rattling, Old Mutual Global Investors' Ned Naylor Leyland, responsible for gold and silver investing, said any further escalation could serve to drive the metals' price even further.

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

The Nasdaq finished the day at 6,216.87, a slide of 135.46, while the S&P 500 lost almost 1.5 percent, ending the day at 2,438.21.

Thus, investors were shifting from stocks to safe-haven options such as the yen, gold and U.S. Treasurys.

"Heightened geopolitical risks overnight have seen the markets flip from risk-on to risk-off and we have to wait and see how long this move runs before adding some positions", said Viraj Patel, an FX strategist at ING. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks ticked up 0.2% to 1,416. The Russell 2000 index gave up 1.7 percent to 1,372.54. Chinese blue chips closed flat but Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.4%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.21 percent from 2.25 percent late Wednesday. Brent crude, the worldwide standard, lost 28 cents to $52.09 a barrel in London. The contract fell 97 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $48.59 a barrel on Thursday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 109.98 yen from 110.06 late Wednesday in Asia.

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