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U.S. stocks finished the day higher after getting whipsawed throughout the session as Treasury yields plummeted to levels unseen in years amid concerns about the prospect of a global recession.
The S&P 500 swung more than 1% from its high to low for a 12th straight day in volume more than a third above its 30-day average before finally ending the day up. Treasuries also suffered whiplash. The 10-year Treasury yield slid below 1.5% for the first time in three years, while the 30-year dropped under 2% for the first time. Trade headlines set investors on edge, though volatility has gripped markets for most of August since Donald Trump escalated his spat with China.
Walmart’s strong results and retail sales that topped estimates did give bulls ammunition. But big declines weighed on indexes as Tapestry Inc. tumbled more than 20% on poor sales and General Electric sank more than 10% on accusations of financial fraud. Cisco Systems fell the most in two years after blaming a slowing global economy for a weak outlook.
The trade war still hung over markets, with discordant headlines sending risk assets on a wild ride throughout the day. Stocks sold off after China said it would retaliate against fresh tariffs before bouncing back after official comments struck a more conciliatory tone. President Donald Trump added to concern by saying any deal with China must be “on our terms.”
“We’re getting a lot of mixed signals on the trade war. There are messages from both the U.S. and China, sometimes they’re tougher messages and sometimes they’re less tough messages. It’s hard to sort out,” said Janet Johnston, portfolio manager at TrimTabs Asset Management.
European assets took a jolt when a top official at the European Central Bank said stimulus measures would exceed investor expectations next month, according to a Dow Jones report. The common currency turned lower against the the dollar and stocks erased losses before finishing lower.
The morning volatility continued a bout of turmoil sparked two weeks ago when Trump escalated his trade war with China. The uncertainty the rising tensions caused and growing signs of a slowing global economy inverted a key version of the U.S. Treasury yield curve for the first time in 12 years, exacerbating the flight from risk assets.
“It’s a tough week with markets as volatile as they are,” said John Roe, the head of multi-asset funds at Legal & General. “Fundamentals are playing a central role but it’s not helped by trade war politics. Markets seemed calmer today after Trump’s more positive tone yesterday, but now China’s upping the rhetoric and it’s becoming a case of he said-Xi said.”
Here are the main moves in markets:
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.3% at 4 p.m. New York time.The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5%.The Nasdaq 100 was little changed.The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.3%.The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.7%.
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was steady.The euro fell 0.2% to $1.1112.The British pound gained 0.4% to $1.2110.The Japanese yen fell 0.1% to 106.00 per dollar.
The yield on 10-year Treasuries decreased seven basis points to 1.51%.The two-year yield fell 10 basis points to 1.48%.Germany’s 10-year yield dipped six basis points to -0.713%.
Gold futures rose 0.4% at $1,533.20 an ounce.West Texas Intermediate crude declined 1.1% to $54.64 a barrel.
--With assistance from Adam Haigh, Joanna Ossinger, Ksenia Galouchko, Laura Curtis and Jeremy Herron.
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