WASHINGTON (dpa-AFX) - After an initial move to the downside, stocks have regained some ground over the course of morning trading on Friday. The major averages have climbed well off their lows of the session but remain in negative territory.
The Dow fell by more than 200 points at the start of trading but is currently down just 41.66 points or 0.2 percent at 25,821.02. The Nasdaq is down 31.45 points or 0.4 percent at 7,866.60 and the S&P 500 is down 7.55 points or 0.3 percent at 2,868.77.
The initial weakness on Wall Street reflected lingering concerns about the escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
President Donald Trump has sought to blame China for backing out of a nearly completed trade deal, although a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce claims the U.S. is responsible for serious setbacks in the trade talks.
Commerce Ministry spokesperson Gao Feng accused the Trump administration of 'bullying behavior' with a recent increase in tariffs, according to state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.
'It is regrettable that the U.S. side unilaterally escalated trade disputes, which resulted in severe negotiating setbacks,' Gao said.
He added, 'We urge the U.S. side to correct wrongdoings as soon as possible to avoid causing heavier damages to businesses and consumers in both countries and dragging down the global economy.'
However, concerns about trade waned after the Trump administration officially delayed imposing tariffs on imported automobiles and parts for up to six months, confirming media reports from earlier this week.
A White House statement noted Trump has directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate agreements to address the national security threat posed by auto imports.
'United States defense and military superiority depend on the competitiveness of our automobile industry and the research and development that industry generates,' White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
She added, 'The negotiation process will be led by United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and, if agreements are not reached within 180 days, the President will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken.'
On the U.S. economic front, the University of Michigan released a report showing a substantial improvement in consumer sentiment in May, although the data was recorded mostly before trade negotiations with China collapsed.
The preliminary report showed the consumer sentiment index surged up to 102.4 in May from 97.2 in April, reaching its highest level in fifteen years. Economists had expected the index to inch up to 97.5.
Oil service stocks continue to see notable weakness in morning trading, while most of the other major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index advanced by 0.9 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 2.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets have climbed off their worst levels but remain lower. While the German DAX Index is down by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.4 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries have pulled back near the unchanged line after seeing initial strength. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 2.396 percent.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX