European markets end lower amid geopolitical tensions

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Stocks are ending broadly lower on Wall Street, led by declines in technology companies and banks, two of the highest-performing sectors over the previous year. Banks and retail chains were also among the big decliners.

US stock indexes were set to open little changed on Friday, with the S&P 500 on track to post its biggest weekly loss in nine months, as investors remained cautious on heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Among other markets, oil prices advanced after a US Department of Energy report showed lower oil inventories.

The technology sector was the S&P's biggest drag with a 2.2 per cent drop.

Wilmar International slipped 6.4 per cent or 22 cents to $3.20; Hongkong Land lost 2.1 per cent or 16 United States cents to US$7.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 14 points, or 1 per cent, to 1,382.

Retailers were also falling Thursday.

The North Korea situation isn't the only thing weighing on stocks. The move added to escalating U.S.

Wall Street's fear gauge - the CBOE Volatility Index or the VIX - surged 44%, its second-biggest one-day jump of the year. Alliance Data Systems fell $6.22, or 2.7 per cent, to $225.70. Core prices had also been expected to climb by 0.2 percent.

Macy's shares closed down 10.2 per cent and Kohl's fell nearly 6 per cent as the companies continued to report a drop in quarterly same-store sales, stoking concerns that their turnarounds may still be a long way off.

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Korea's Samsung Electronics fell 2.8% Friday and was down 6.1% on the week. Its shares tumbled $10.14 to $63.20.

Nvidia's quarterly revenue in its data center and automotive businesses missed estimates, dragging the chipmaker's shares down 3.90%. Chinese blue chips closed flat but Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 per cent. Top automaker Hyundai Motor fell 2.07 percent to 142,000 won.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index edged up 0.1 percent last month, which was below the 0.2 percent rise expected by economists polled by Reuters.

The Federal Reserve's hint about unwinding balance sheets, the possibility of the European Central Bank tapering stimulus and the looming debate about the US debt ceiling in the fall challenge the market's recent performance, Mr. Baele said. Bent crude, the global benchmark, rose 19 cents to $52.33 a barrel.

On the currency front, the USA dollar is trading at 108.82 yen compared to the 109.20 yen it fetched at the close of NY trading on Thursday.

The pound was unchanged against the dollar at $1.2981 and up 0.15% against the euro at 1.1040 euros.

"But looking ahead unless we start to see a conflict break out or a major stock market correction, (gold) is capped at 1,295 (although) the upside at moment is the favored direction".

In Europe, equities dived with London losing 0.6 percent, while Frankfurt shed 1.1 percent and Paris fell 1.4 percent.

The latest sell-off was the most severe yet, amounting to the biggest single-day drop for the stock market in almost three months.