FTSE ends down as shares hit by US-North Korea tensions

European Shares Plummet

European Shares Plummet

US stocks were modestly higher in late morning trading on Friday as investors cautiously dipped back into riskier assets, after a three-day losing streak on concerns over escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Sterling touched a three-week low against the dollar as mixed output and trade data did little to alter investors' downbeat view of an economy struggling to meet Bank of England targets.

USA stocks deepened their losses following the latest Trump comments, and the S&P 500 volatility index, known unofficially as the "fear index", rose decisively.

Germany's DAX dropped 0.3 percent to 12,117.07 and the CAC 40 of France lost 0.3 percent to 5,132.22.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.6 percent in its third session of declines, heading for a 1.5 percent drop for the week.

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The Footsie has come under pressure amid tension between North Korea and the USA, as President Donald Trump said that Pyongyang's threats would be met with "fire and fury". The general also outlined plans to launch four Hwasong-12 ballistic missiles to strike the sea around US territory Guam. The comments follow reports that the North has developed technology to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

Geopolitical risks can boost demand for safe haven assets such as gold.

"Depending on how North Korea acts, the yen could further rise (relative to the dollar)", a dealer at a foreign exchange brokerage said.

But the prospect of hefty losses on Wall Street stocks was averted when U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said there was "no imminent threat of war" and that Americans could "sleep well at night". Nonetheless, most Americans (72 percent) are uneasy about the possibility of conflict with North Korea, according to a CBS News poll, and 61 percent say they are uneasy about the president's approach to the situation.

"The markets in general are very on edge and they're very leery about risk", Mariann Montagne, a portfolio manager at Gradient Investments, told Bloomberg.

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The president didn't show signs of letting up on the tough rhetoric.

"Both precious metals are looking increasingly bullish from a technical standpoint, but gold has drifted higher of late, breaking many resistance levels in the process". Most observers believe the next hike will come in December.

The euro dipped 0.1 percent to $1.1733 but the single European currency has been slipping this week against the dollar, having hit a more than 2 1/2-year high of $1.1892 on August 2.

The baht, regarded as safe haven, rose a bit to 33.22 against the United States dollar from 33.24 on Thursday.

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