Stocks Waver but Remain Poised for Weekly Gains
By Will Horner and Gunjan Banerji
Global stocks paused Friday but remained on track to finish the week with big gains as investors cheered progress between the U.S. and China on trade.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite were roughly flat in early trading. The S&P 500 slipped about 0.1%. All three indexes are on track for weekly gains of at least 0.6%.
The week has been dominated by trade news, sending stock and bond yields sharply higher despite Friday's modest moves. The Dow breached its first new high since July, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also touched records.
Investors grew more confident about economic growth, piling into shares of cyclical stocks during the week and unraveling bets on safer investments like Treasurys. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note closed at its highest level since July as bond prices fell. A bond market signal that had previously been flashing red that a recession is coming has eased up.
Some of the optimism lifting stocks earlier in the week waned Friday, highlighting the impact of trade sentiment on stock and bond investors.
Although markets had begun betting that a partial trade deal would be accompanied by a rolling-back of existing tariffs, questions remain about President Donald Trump's commitment to offering such concessions. On the same day that China said Beijing and Washington have agreed to mutually lift some tariffs as part of a "phase-one" deal, Peter Navarro, a senior U.S. trade adviser, said there was no formal agreement in place and the final decision would lie with Mr. Trump.
"Until we actually see some type of trade deal, the level of uncertainty -- which ultimately will translate into volatility in the market -- will persist," said Brian O'Reilly, head of investment strategy at the Dublin-based Mediolanum International Funds. "Today, we are just seeing a bit of a recalibration of that over-optimism from a news headline without any hard facts."
Adding to enthusiasm among, earnings have largely been better than investors had expected.
Walt Disney shares climbed 4.8% after its earnings beat analysts' expectations.
Travel-website operator Booking Holdings gained over 5% following an earnings report that beat expectations. Gap slumped about 6% after the apparel maker pared its profit targets for the year and said Chief Executive Art Peck would step down immediately.
Oil prices also slipped as the cautious mood on the U.S.-China trade spat spilled over into investors' assessment of the global economic outlook. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell about 2%.
On Friday, global markets, which have also been buoyed lately by signs that a U.S. recession isn't imminent, will gauge signals from a measure of consumer sentiment due to be released by the University of Michigan.
The Stoxx Europe 600 gauge fell 0.2%. Stocks in Asia also pulled back but capped off a second consecutive week of gains. The Hang Seng declined 0.7% and the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5%.
Write to Gunjan Banerji at Gunjan.Banerji@wsj.com