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Wall St falls on North Korea warnings, tech sell-off

New York Stock Exchange.

Richard Drew/AP

Wall Street fell on Monday, as a selloff in technology shares dragged the Nasdaq down more than 1 per cent, while North Korea's latest warnings to Washington added to a cautious tone.

North Korea's foreign minister said President Donald Trump had declared war on the country and it reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. bombers even if they are not in its airspace.

The comments buoyed safe-haven assets, those that are favored by investors in times of crisis, with gold up 0.9 per cent and the Japanese yen up 0.30 per cent versus the greenback at 111.65 per dollar.

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"Everyone's waiting with a cringe on their face," said Jason Ware, chief investment officer at Albion Financial in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"We don't want this to continue, to become a war of words and then who knows when a mistake can happen."

The CBOE Volatility index, a widely followed measure of market anxiety, hit a 2-week high of 11.21 and was last up 1.12 points at 10.71.

Tech names such as Facebook, off 4.81 per cent, Microsoft, down 1.89 percent, and Apple, off 1.11 per cent, were among the biggest drags on the benchmark S&P 500 index.

The S&P technology index slid 1.76 per cent and was on track for its worst daily performance in five weeks. The index remains the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors this year, however, with a rise of nearly 23 per cent.

The losses in tech were offset somewhat by a sharp climb in the energy sector, which gained 1.56 percent. The sector was on track for its sixteenth gain in the last 18 sessions.

Oil prices hit a more than two-year high on Monday after major producers said the global market was on its way towards rebalancing, while Turkey threatened to cut oil flows from Iraq's Kurdistan region toward its ports.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 65.31 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 22,284.28, the S&P 500 lost 9.42 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 2,492.8 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 74.19 points, or 1.15 per cent, to 6,352.73.

At 3:14 p.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 0.3 per cent, or 43.62 points to 15,497.85

Genuine Parts shares jumped 6.28 per cent as the best performer on the S&P 500 after the car parts distributor said it would enter the European market with a deal to buy peer Alliance Automotive Group for about $2 billion.

Allergan was up 2.15 per cent after the drugmaker authorized a $2 billion buyback of its shares and said its chief financial officer would retire.

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