United States stocks fall again on North Korea tensions

Strong gains in NY, where the Dow saw repeated record highs up until three day ago, had kept investor optimism high when news of the conflict first broke, Currie said.

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

At 12:36 p.m. ET (1636 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 158.98 points, or 0.72 percent, at 21,889.72 and the S&P 500 was down 27.37 points, or 1.11 percent, at 2,446.65. A batch of disappointing company earnings also helped pull the market lower, with consumer-focused companies and technology stocks among the biggest decliners. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not believe there was an imminent threat.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 34.61 points, or 0.56 percent, at 6,251.48.

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Most large-cap stocks fell across the board.

The data comes amid tepid inflation that has remained below the Fed's 2 percent target, despite low unemployment.

Indexes: In London, the FTSE 100 moved down 0.6% to 7,452.24, and Spain's IBEX 35 gave up 0.3% at 10,563.60.

The last time the S&P 500 fell over 1 percent was on May. 17.

Nations start to choose sides in event of North Korea war
But if North Korea escalates, the US must be prepared to escalate to massive disarming strikes, including use of nuclear weapons. At the same time , the prospect of disintegration or chaos in North Korea evokes at least two major concerns in China.

"If you strip away what's going on in North Korea, and if you strip away what's going on in Washington, which are things that are tougher to predict, the economy, the global recovery, earnings, it all paints a very positive picture for the rest of the year", Kravetz said.

In other news, United States wholesale inflation dropped in July, the first contraction in almost a year and another data point that could weaken the case for the Federal Reserve to raise the benchmark interest rate again later this year.

Investors also drew some encouragement from new government data showing USA inflation at the consumer level inched higher last month.

THE QUOTE: "Inflation - or lack of -- has been an ongoing problem for the central bank and some policy makers have voiced concerns about this in recent months as they consider whether to raise interest rates again this year", said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.22 percent from 2.26 percent late Tuesday.

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US crude oil tumbled 2% to $48.59/bbl, failing to hold above $50 as a report from OPEC showed crude production among the group's members rose in July. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, rose 20 cents to $52.10 a barrel in London.

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