Stock markets nosedived on Thursday as investors continued moving into gold amid escalating political tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 143.08 points to 15,074.25, with almost all of its sectors moving lower.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 204.69 points to 21,844.01. The S&P 500 composite index dropped 35.81 points to 2,438.21, while the Nasdaq composite index slid 135.46 points to 6,216.87.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s volatility index (a.k.a. the VIX), which measures how much volatility investors expect in stocks, jumped to its highest level since May after North Korea revealed a plan to launch ballistic missiles toward a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific.

The price of gold also surged for the second day in a row as the December bullion contract advanced US$10.80 to US$1,290.10 an ounce. The precious metal is often seen as a safe haven for investors during times of uncertainty.

The Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of US78.67¢, down 0.04 of a U.S. cent.

Elsewhere in commodities, the September crude contract advanced US20¢ to US$49.76 a barrel and the September natural gas contract was up US7¢ to US$2.95 per mmBTU. The September copper contract was down US2¢ to US$2.91 a pound.