But assets such as oil and currencies changed direction as the day wore on as investors were not convinced Trump would follow through with a threat made on May 5 to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week.
All the same, investors reduced their risk exposure, with U.S. Treasury yields lower as investors favored low-risk government bonds over stocks.
Oil futures edged higher in volatile trade as rising tensions between the United States and Iran buoyed prices, which earlier touched a one-month low.
In U.S. equities, the three major indexes fell after declines in Europe and China, where the Shanghai SE Composite had its biggest one-day percentage drop since February 2016.
U.S. indexes, however, pared their losses slightly by mid-afternoon.
“The news gave investors a chance to take profits off the table. Markets are comfortable with the idea that Trump is using this as a negotiation tactic to get a trade deal done,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
“Whether or not China will be able to meet the demands of the administration, that is questionable, but I think a trade agreement is on its way.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 182.06 points, or 0.69%, to 26,322.89, the S&P 500 lost 22.77 points, or 0.77%, to 2,922.87 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 73.45 points, or 0.9%, to 8,090.55.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.88% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.84%. Japanese and London markets were both closed for holidays.
Bonds Rise with Dollar
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last rose 11/32 in price to yield 2.4926%, from 2.53% late on May 3.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar was down very slightly after firming earlier in the session against most major currencies while investors turned to safe-haven currencies after the Trump tweets.
The dollar index fell 0.02%, with the euro up 0.04% to $1.1204.
The Japanese yen weakened 0.28% versus the greenback at 110.86 per dollar.
“When you have a panic investors sell everything. After that the market discerns which ones deserve to be down. We’re continuing to put pressure on Iran and that’s continuing to put supply out of the Middle East under pressure,” said Shawn Hackett, president at Hackett Financial Advisors in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Because of the reduction in supply out of Iran the U.S.-China trade issue isn’t enough to overcome that bullish factor.”
By Sinéad Carew