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 an unusually detailed threat that further heightened tensions with the United States.
Safe-haven assets gained. Gold rose 1.2 percent, while the Swiss franc was on track to post its biggest single day rise in about two-and-a-half years.
Small attributed a large part of the Dow's decline to disappointing earnings from Disney after the media giant reported a weak quarter, said it would pull its movies from Netflix and start two of its own video streaming services.
Tech has been the stalwart of the US stock market this year, rising more than 20 percent in the time period.
S&P 500 e-minis were down 9.25 points, or 0.37 percent, with 296,288 contracts traded. Sony Corp. shares in Tokyo dropped 1.6 percent.
"The index is showing a warning sign as it is rising after US shares staged a rally recently", Kagawa said, adding that investors could be positioning for a possible sharp sell-off in the near future.
With Japan and South Korea also warning North Korea, investors are taking a step back to see what is happening before chipping in back, Bakhos said. Crude oil prices headed lower.
Investors' unease over escalating tensions between the US and North Korea had weighed on stocks earlier in the day, pushing gold and bond prices slightly higher.
The Swiss franc rallied hard against the euro and the USA dollar on Wednesday, as increased tensions between the United States and North Korea led investors to look for assets deemed as less risky.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 204 points, or 0.9 percent, to 21,844.
"We experienced volume pressure from both a macro and competitive perspective that impacted our total volume performance within the quarter, and we anticipate this will carry forward for the remainder of 2017", Chief Executive Officer Ralph Scozzafava said in a statement.
The last time the S&P closed down more than 1 percent was May 17 when it fell 1.8 percent. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.4 percent to 3,261.75. The producer-price index fell 0.1 percent last month, the first decrease in nearly a year. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.90 a pound. The precious metal is often seen as a safe haven for investors during times of uncertainty. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.27% from 2.26%.
The dollar was flat at 110.08 yen on Thursday, up from Wednesday's low of 109.56 yen, which was the dollar's lowest level since June 15.