United States stocks veer higher in afternoon trading; oil heads lower

U.S. Navy  Handout  Reuters

U.S. Navy Handout Reuters

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 media giant's stock dropped approximately 5 percent in early trade and shaved off about 43 points from the price-weighted Dow.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 16.88 points, or 0.26 percent, at 6,353.58.

Trump directed his stern comment towards North Korea just hours after it was revealed by the Washington Post that Pyongyang had successfully created a miniaturized nuclear weapon designed to fit inside its missiles.

"As a result all major U.S. markets closed lower for the first time in over two weeks, and this weakness unsurprisingly has spilled over into Asia markets as well, as geopolitical tensions prompt some nervousness, particularly since North Korea's state media suggested that they examining the prospect of a missile strike near the USA base in Guam".

Mounting tensions lifted US defense stocks.

Stocks jumped early in the session after data showed US job openings surged to a record high in June. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman and the Dow Jones U.S. defense index .DJUSDN was up 1.48 percent after hitting a record high. Economists had expected productivity to increase by 0.7 percent.

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Brokerage stocks are among the few groups seeing notable weakness, with the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index down by 1 percent.

The weakness on Wall Street reflects geopolitical concerns amid a continued increase in tensions between the United States and North Korea. The Dow slid 0.2 percent to 22,085.34. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index tumbled by 1.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell by 0.4 percent. Energy stocks fell along with crude prices as investors kept an eye on the latest company earnings and geopolitical news.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., June 27, 2017. The euro edged down to $1.1726 from $1.1751.

About 6.22 billion shares changed hands on US stock exchanges, slightly above the 6.15 billion average for the last 20 sessions. Brent crude, the global standard, lost 28 cents to $52.09 a barrel in London.

European equity markets also opened sharply lower and measures of volatility spiked.

The 10-year note fetched a high yield of 2.250 percent, above the expected 2.234 percent at the bid deadline. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.2 percent, to 2,474.92.