Stocks cut losses as Wall Street shrugs off trade-war fears

  • "The market has come back to think we'll probably get some sort of negotiation done," notes one strategist.
  • The Dow fell as much as 280.93 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped 0.7 percent after the Trump administration said it will impose a 25 percent charge on up to $50 billion in Chinese goods.

Stocks slashed losses to close well off the lows of the day on Friday as investor worries about a U.S.-China trade war decreased.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 84.83 points lower at 25,090.48, with Caterpillar as the worst-performing stock in the index. The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent at 2,779.42 — after briefly turning positive — with energy lagging. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1 percent to 7,746.38.

"The market has done a good job of whistling past the graveyard when it comes to trade policy," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. "The market has come back to think we'll probably get some sort of negotiation done."

Earlier on Friday, the Dow fell as much as 280.93 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped 0.7 percent after the Trump administration said it will impose a 25 percent charge on up to $50 billion in Chinese goods, raising fears of a trade war looming between the U.S. and China.

In a statement Friday, President Donald Trump said the measures would affect Chinese goods "that contain industrially significant technologies," without specifying those products. He added that the action comes "in light of China's theft of intellectual property and technology and its other unfair trade practices."

Trump also said the U.S. would impose more tariffs on Chinese goods if China retaliates with duties of its own on American products.

"This is an issue that still causes fear and uncertainty in the market, but ... the tone of the White House can change very quickly," said Craig Birk, executive vice president of portfolio management at Personal Capital. "This is a long game so it doesn't make sense to overreact one way or the other."

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci | AP
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington.

China promptly responded to the Trump administration's announcement, with the Chinese Commerce Ministry saying it will implement tariffs on the same scale as the U.S.

"This continues to be a key issue for the market but we don't want to overstate it," said Ed Campbell, managing director for QMA. "We expected China to retaliate, but if we only get one round of retaliation and this doesn't escalate, it won't be as bad."

Shares of Boeing and Caterpillar fell as much as 2.5 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, before closing off their lows of the day. Both companies are sensitive to trade tensions given their large amounts of overseas business.

Treasury yields also fell, with the benchmark 10-year note yield trading at 2.93 percent. The short-term two-year note yield also slipped to 2.55 percent.

Tensions between the U.S. and several of its key trading partners have been simmering recently as the Trump administration tries to fight trade practices or deals it thinks are unfair to the U.S.

The moves Friday come after U.S. markets finished the previous day's trading on a mixed note. The Nasdaq hit an all-time high during Thursday's session, with the S&P 500 also closing in the black. The Dow however failed to hold onto gains.

"Beneath the surface, I think this is about a rally that has taken a lot of headline news this week and we're seeing momentum slow down" a bit, said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. "This is a needed breather after a strong rally."

Over the past month, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 have gained 5.4 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the Dow has risen about 1.6 percent.

—CNBC's Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report