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Stocks slip amid U.S.-North Korea tensions; Disney drops nearly 4%

New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

U.S. stocks closed slightly lower Wednesday, after being down further earlier in the day following a rare batch of earnings disappointments by Walt Disney and other big companies.

Consumer-focused stocks, media companies and banks accounted for much of the market decline. They outweighed gains in healthcare stocks and elsewhere. Small-company stocks fell more than the rest of the market.

Investors’ unease over escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea weighed on stocks early in the session, pushing gold and bond prices slightly higher. But by the end of the day, traders appeared to take the geopolitical drama in stride.

“Right now the market is viewing it as a lot of saber-rattling and a lot of smoke, but not much fire,” said Darrell Cronk, president of Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.90 of a point, or 0.04%, to 2,474.02. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 36.64 points, or 0.2%, to 22,048.70. Earlier in the day, the average was down more than 88 points.

The Nasdaq composite fell 18.13 points, or 0.3%, to 6,352.33. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 13.20 points, or 0.9%, to 1,396.95, its lowest level in two months.

The stage was set for the U.S. indexes to fall early Wednesday as investors around the world reacted to the rising war of words between the U.S. and North Korea, pushing global market indexes lower.

On Tuesday, President Trump warned North Korea of “fire and fury” in response to recent threats from Pyongyang, which said it was examining plans for attacking Guam, a U.S. territory and key military outpost in the Pacific. Trump’s comments followed reports that North Korea has mastered a technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

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Investors reacted by driving up the price of gold and bonds, traditional haven plays. But the moves were modest.

Gold rose $16.70, or 1.3%, to settle at $1,279.30 an ounce.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.25% from 2.26%.

Although the tough talk about the potential for war is scary, investors have heard it many times before.

“North Korea was fodder for the overnight trade, and as we headed into today we haven’t seen any more saber-rattling,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “I would expect the markets to react again pretty negatively to any more tough talk from either side, but for now, everybody seems to have settled down.”

Disappointing company earnings and outlooks also put traders in a selling mood.

Priceline Group slid 6.9% to $1,906.80 after the online travel booking service issued a profit forecast that was weaker than analysts expected.

Read more: Disney to offer two streaming services and end its movie distribution agreement with Netflix »

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Disney dropped 3.9% to $102.83, its biggest single-day loss in more than a year, after the media giant reported a weak quarter and said it would pull its movies from Netflix and start two video streaming services of its own. Netflix fell 1.4% to $175.78.

Shares in several other big media companies also declined. Discovery Communications fell 2.9% to $23.60. Viacom fell 1.9% to $30.17.

Fossil tumbled 25.1% to $8.87 after the watch maker said sales continued to weaken, falling short of analysts’ estimates. The company booked a hefty charge and said its chief financial officer was leaving the company.

Healthcare stocks, which have been in a slump, posted gains. Humana rose 1.9% to $254.96.

Green Dot jumped 13.8% to $45.92 after the prepaid debit card company raised its profit and revenue forecasts and gave more details about its partnership with Apple.

The geopolitical turmoil appeared to have more of an effect overnight and into early Wednesday.

Germany’s DAX fell 1.1%, while France’s CAC 40 slid 1.4%. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares declined 0.6%. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.3%. Seoul’s Kospi fell 1.1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.3%.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 39 cents to settle at $49.56 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 56 cents to $52.70 in London.

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In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.62 a gallon, heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.65 a gallon, and natural gas rose 6 cents to $2.88 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Silver rose 47 cents, or 2.9%, to $16.86 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.93 a pound.

The dollar fell to 109.85 yen from 110.48 yen. The euro held steady at $1.1752.


UPDATES:

3 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

8:10 a.m.: This article was updated with market prices and context.

This article was originally published at 6:50 a.m.


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