Canada's main stock index hit its lowest close in a month on Thursday as oil prices fell and investors sought refuge in safe-haven assets amid rising tensions between the United States and North Korea. South Korea's KOSPI was down 1.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 1.8 percent.
"What has changed this time is that the scary threats and war of words between the USA and North Korea have intensified to the point that markets can't ignore it", said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, as quoted by Reuters.
Biotechnology, tobacco, and transportation stocks also saw considerable strength, while steel stocks extended a recent move to the downside.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 1 percent, while France's CAC 40 fell 1.4 percent.
Travel website operator Priceline Group Inc fell 6.9 percent after a disappointing financial forecast.
The biggest fallers were Standard Life down 16p to 410.8p, Rio Tinto down 109.5p to 3,370p, Old Mutual down 6.2p to 195.3p, Anglo American down 39p to 1,238.5p.
-Following Trump's warning of unleashing "fire and fury" on North Korea earlier this week, the president warned the regime not to follow through with a missile test near Guam, promising massive response to any strike against the USA or its allies. The strong performance of these companies is clearly related to the North Korea drama. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 36.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to 22,048.70.
Spain on course to surpass Greece as European Union migration destination
Experts say it's hard to pinpoint why the water route to Spain via Morocco has become a preferred option for some migrants. More than 1,700 have been rescued from the water so far this year, with the month of June alone seeing more than 900.
GOT A PULSE: Health care stocks, which have been in a slump, were headed higher.
Investors are losing enthusiasm for Canada's banking stocks as a slowdown in the country's housing market dents banks' growth prospects, with insurance companies seen as a better bet to benefit from higher interest rates. It rose $15.70, or 1.2 percent, to $1,277.80 an ounce. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares declined 0.6 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 97 cents, or 2 percent, to $48.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The price of gold, a universal safe haven asset, has risen almost 3 percent over the past four days, hovering at $1,290 per ounce, its highest since early June.
Retailers Wal-Mart (WMT), Home Depot (HD), Target (TGT), Staples (SPLS), and Gap (GPS) are also among the companies due to report their quarterly results next week.
The CBOE Volatility Index .VIX , a barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, closed at its highest since the election. Rival Advanced Micro Devices was also down 2.6 percent.
The U.S. equity market is hovering near record levels and volume has been tepid following the onset of summer. Australia was off 1.2 percent. The euro slid to $1.1732 from $1.1752.