Investors rode out another turbulent day on Wall Street Thursday that kept stock indexes flipping between gains and losses until a late-day bounce gave the market a modest gain.
Worries about a possible recession collided with hopes that the strongest part of the U.S. economy — shoppers spending at stores and online — can keep going.
The major U.S. stock indexes spent much of the day reacting to big moves in U.S. government bond yields, which fell sharply in the early going, fluctuated for much of the day, and then recovered some of their decline by mid-afternoon.
U.S. government bonds have been among the loudest and earliest to cry out warnings about the economy. Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday after a fairly reliable warning signal of recession emerged from the bond market. Even after the slide in yields eased Thursday, the U.S. bond market continued to show concern as yields ended broadly lower.
Stocks in Asia and Europe paved the way for the volatile day on Wall Street early Thursday after China said it would take “necessary countermeasures” if President Donald Trump follows through on a threat to impose tariffs on more than $100 billion of Chinese goods on Sept. 1.
The S&P 500 rose 7 points, or 0.2%, to 2,847.60. The benchmark index swung between a 0.6% gain and 0.5% loss. A day earlier, it plunged 2.9%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, coming off its worst day of the year, gained 99.97 points, or 0.4%, to 25,579.39.
Other indexes didn’t catch the bounce. The Nasdaq composite dropped 7.32 points, or 0.1%, to 7,766.62, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies lost 5.87 points, or 0.4%, to 1,461.65.
Markets around the world have jerked up and down for weeks. Prices for everything from stocks to gold to oil have been heaving as investors flail from one moment of uncertainty around Mr. Trump’s trade war to another around what central banks will do with interest rates.
A government report also showed that retail sales across the country last month rose more than economists expected. Other economies are slowing as the trade war is doing damage to manufacturers around the world.
Those concerns helped pull the yield on the 10-year Treasury down as low as 1.48% Thursday from 1.58% late Wednesday, another big move.
The yield rose as high as 1.54% by late afternoon, which appeared to put some investors in a buying mood. That yield has been steadily dropping since late last year, when it was above 3%. In late trading Thursday the 10-year yield stood at 1.52%.
The 10-year yield has sunk so much that it dropped below the yield of the two-year Treasury Wednesday, a rare occurrence and one that has historically suggested a recession may be a year or two away.
Commodity prices were lower. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 76 cents to settle at $54.47 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.25 to close at $58.23.
Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $1.64 per gallon. Heating oil declined 3 cents to $1.81 per gallon. Natural gas fell 9 cents to $2.23 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold, which has rallied when worries about the economy have grown, added $3.70 to $1,519.60 per ounce. Silver fell 6 cents to $17.19 per ounce and copper was unchanged at $2.59 per pound.