World equity markets and U.S. bond yields fell while gold rose on Thursday as investors favored safe-haven investments amid skepticism U.S. President Donald Trump, roiled in controversy, would achieve his economic agenda.
Adding to investor concerns was news that a van had slammed into crowds in the Spanish city of Barcelona, killing 13 people, according to media reports, in an attack police were treating as a terrorism.
The U.S. dollar clung to a tiny gain and U.S. Treasury yields fell on worries Trump will be unable to deliver on campaign promises such as tax reform, even as the White House knocked down speculation that Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, would resign.
A crisis deepened over Trump's response to violence on Saturday in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville, spurred by a white nationalist protest against the removal of a Confederate statue.
After Trump blamed counter-protesters as much as white nationalists for clashes that left one woman dead, an exodus of business executives from Trump's advisory councils on Wednesday fueled speculation other officials, such as Cohn, would leave.
Trump on Thursday again decried the removal of monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War Confederacy at the center of the protests which have inflamed U.S. racial tensions.
Rather than a single catalyst, a range of worries prompted investors to take profit, including the U.S. relationship with North Korea, the Barcelona attack, as well as domestic turmoil, according to Dennis Dick, proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas.
"It's not full-on panic selling here. It's been a slow steady leak. That's what's telling me it's money managers raising a little more cash," said Dick.
"The market is starting to get a little impatient with the Trump situation. He can't get any bills passed. You don't know what he's going to tweet about next."
While the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index hit a session low around the same time as the Barcelona attack's death toll headlines, Dick noted that U.S. investors generally tend not to trade heavily on overseas news and are more concerned with Trump.
Earlier on Thursday, the dollar was pushed higher versus the euro after the European Central Bank expressed caution about removing monetary stimulus too soon following a recent bounce in the euro, according to records of its last meeting.
This was a day after minutes released from the Federal Reserve showed some policymakers cautioning against rate increases while U.S. inflation remained weak.
At 3:17 p.m. ET, fell 0.96 per cent, or 212.3 points, to 21,812.52. The S&P 500 lost 1.25 per cent, or 30.96 points, to 2,437.15 and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.68 per cent, or 106.6 points, to 6,238.48.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 0.23 per cent, or 34.94 points, to 15,047.27.
The U.S. dollar index rose 0.06 per cent, with the euro down 0.24 per cent to $1.174, after hitting a three-week low following indications that some within the ECB were concerned about its gains.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.59 per cent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.57 pe rcent.
Oil prices rose on expectations of a hefty stockpile draw at the U.S. oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, reversing Wednesday's loses, which were spurred by data showing U.S. crude output at its highest in two years.
U.S. crude rose 0.62 per cent to $47.07 per barrel and Brent was last at $50.93, up 1.31 per cent on the day.
The safe-haven commodity, gold, added 0.3 per cent to $1,286.44 an ounce. U.S. gold futures gained 0.71 per cent to $1,292.00 an ounce.