U.S. stocks were on track for their biggest one-day dip in a month on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump`s "fire and fury" warning to North Korea escalated global uncertainty.
But while investors appeared to favour safe-haven assets, some bargain seekers helped Wall Street`s three major indexes pare losses and some U.S. officials sought to dial back tensions.
Late Tuesday, North Korea had said it was considering plans to fire missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory, after Trump`s warning earlier in the day.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday about the strength of the American nuclear arsenal, but expressed hope it would not need to be used, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he did not believe there was an imminent threat.
After a dip of as much as 0.52 percent earlier in the day, investors appeared to take some comfort in Tillerson`s comments, said Richard Steinberg, managing director at HighTower Advisors in New York.
"You`d need to see something more tangible than just rhetoric for a broader pullback," he said. "I would continue to sit back and wait. I don`t think this is something where you need to run for the hills and sell."
There were also signs of a "buy-the-dip mentality" as the day wore on, according to Katrina Lamb, head of investment strategy and research at MV Financial in Bethesda, Maryland.
Safe-haven assets gained following the rising geopolitical tensions. Gold
Politics also lifted U.S. defence stocks. Lockheed Martin
The CBOE Volatility Index <.vix>, the most widely followed barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, was at its highest in more than a month.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.dji> was down 82.37 points, or 0.37 percent, to 22,002.97, the S&P 500 <.spx> had lost 8.34 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,466.58 and the Nasdaq Composite <.ixic> had dropped 38.99 points, or 0.61 percent, to 6,331.47.
All 11 major S&P sectors were lower and the consumer discretionary index <.splrcd> was the biggest loser with a 1 percent drop. The consumer sector`s biggest drags were Walt Disney
Disney shares were down 4.8 percent as investors were skeptical of its plan to launch streaming services rather than rely on Netflix
Travel website operator Priceline Group Inc
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.79-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.58-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.