US stocks join global selloff on trade war fears


File: Victims of the black dollar scam believed that they had the magic to turn black pieces of paper into US dollars.

File: Victims of the black dollar scam believed that they had the magic to turn black pieces of paper into US dollars.

NEW YORK - US stocks were mixed at midday Friday after President Donald Trump doubled down on tough trade rhetoric vowing steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

But US stocks, which had joined global markets in tumbling at the market open, rebounded considerably from their session lows.

Near 1820 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 24,432.84, down 0.7 percent, still on track for its fourth straight loss but better than the 1.5 percent loss posted at one point.

The broad-based S&P 500 was off 0.2 percent to 2,673.14, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.2 percent to 7,192.38.

"You had a pretty big downdraft yesterday for this and we still don&39;t know the details," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

"None of it is going to be good, but the devil is in the details," Hogan said of the proposed tariffs.

Hogan said Friday&39;s trading volumes were lower than usual because of a major winter storm that closed offices in some part of the Northeast.

Trump doubled down on the plan Friday, saying on Twitter that "trade wars are good and easy to win" and threatening to cut off countries that take advantage of the US.

In a blistering series of morning tweets, he said he would impose "reciprocal taxes" on all imports from trading partners that have duties on American exports.

Equity markets in Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo all lost more than two percent as US trading partners and several leading industry groups criticized Trump&39;s plan.

A note from Oxford Economics warned of "tit-for-tat" retaliation from other countries and said the tariffs could "embolden" Trump to take more punitive actions if the manoeuvre is "deemed a political success."

"While we are still far from a full-blown trade war that could threaten the global recovery, Trump&39;s actions have increased the risks of such a downside event," Oxford Economics said in the note.

The performance of individual stocks was somewhat more scattered compared with Thursday. 

Boeing and Caterpillar each lost about two percent, continuing Thursday&39;s selloff of some multinationals on worries about a trade war. But other big exporters, including General Electric and Johnson & Johnson were positive.

Campbell Soup, a big aluminium user, fell 0.4 percent, Coca-Cola lost 0.3 percent, while Budweiser maker Anheuser Busch InBev was about flat.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross held up cans of the three products on CNBC in his bid to defend the tariffs, which he said would lead to only "negligible" price increases to consumers.

Some steel companies that surged Thursday pulled back, including US Steel and Nucor, which fell 2.0 percent and 0.4 percent respectively. Century Aluminum jumped 3.4 percent.