With the tense mood pushing European shares down for a third day and Wall Street set to fall again, global stocks were on course for their worst week since Donald Trump won November's US presidential election. North Korea said it was completing plans to fire four intermediate - range missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.
In currencies, the yen rose 0.8 percent versus the greenback at 109.2 per dollar (JPY=), the strongest level for the Japanese currency since mid June.
The Swiss franc on Wednesday held near the day's highs after posting its biggest single-day rise against the euro since the central bank removed its cap on the currency in January 2015. Two weeks ago it saw its biggest weekly fall against the euro since the start of 2015. We can also say that if the above things go badly, it would seem that gold (more than other safe haven assets like the dollar, yen, and treasuries) would benefit, so if you don't have 5-10 per cent of your assets in gold as a hedge, we'd suggest that you relook at this.
Many markets have recently climbed to record or multi-year highs, leaving them vulnerable to a sell-off.
More than 430 stocks from all US exchanges hit their lowest levels in 52 weeks or more on Thursday, the most for any session since mid-November right after Trump was elected.
The MSCI World index .MIWD00000PUS was slightly lower, extending Thursday's 1.1 percent drop, its biggest one-day slide since May 17, as U.S. President Donald Trump stepped up his rhetoric against North Korea. "I'm looking selectively at the pullbacks, but my gut is that we could be in for a bumpy ride for the next couple of months or so".
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44.33 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,888.34, the S&P 500 gained 6.01 points, or 0.25 percent, to 2,444.22 and the Nasdaq Composite added 32.10 points, or 0.52 percent, to 6,248.97.
Australian shares were down 1.5 percent, set for a weekly loss of 0.8 percent.
Emerging market stocks lost 1.28 percent.
US -traded Nikkei futures (NKc1) fell 2 percent to their lowest since mid-May. "Pretty remarkable, perhaps even extraordinary, considering", said Tim Ash, strategist at fund manager BlueBay. Trading is available via the MT4 and MT5 platforms with spreads starting from just 1.3 on Standard trading accounts and from 0.1 on ECN trading accounts.
The Indonesian rupiah slipped by about 0.1 percent to its lowest in over 4 weeks.
And in a textbook-type cross-asset move toward safety in times of trouble, the Japanese yen hit an eight-week high against the USA dollar while spot gold also reached a two-month high. They plunged 2 percent on Thursday on fears of slowing demand and lingering concerns over a global oversupply. The Federal Reserve is likely to scale back on its expected pace of interest rate hikes if inflation continues to be soft.