Investors interpreted the negative signals from the talks and lack of new trade announcements as making it more likely that Trump would forge ahead with broad steel tariffs or quotas based on a national security review, sending steelmakers' shares soaring.
Shares of United States Steel closed up 4.8 percent, while AK Steel rose 3.6 percent and Nucor rose 2.2 percent.
Trump, asked by a reporter at the White House after the stock market closed whether he would impose steel tariffs, said: "Could happen."
Potential steel tariffs, which could be announced in the coming weeks, were expected to be a difficult topic in the U.S.-China talks. Ross has blamed massive Chinese excess capacity for a global steel glut that is hurting U.S. producers.
Even if the U.S. and Chinese governments fail to agree on more substantive trade terms, corporate chief executive officers from the two countries pledged to deepen their cooperation and joint investment efforts.
Led by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Alibaba Group CEO Jack Ma, a group of 20 executives said they were committing to increase bilateral trade, including the export of U.S. agricultural goods, liquefied natural gas and consumer products to China.
"A stable, growing economic relationship between the United States and China is mutually beneficial to the people of our two countries and for the world," Ma and Schwarzman said in a statement.