By Amy Caren Daniel and Sruthi Shankar
(Reuters) – U.S. stocks reversed course to trade higher on Wednesday after a report that President Donald Trump may delay a decision to impose auto tariffs, offering respite to markets worried about slowing global growth after a batch of weak economic data.
The deadline to decide on tariffs is May 18, but Trump is expected to delay it by up to six months, sources told Reuters. Automakers Ford Motor Co, and General Motors Co gained about 1% on the news.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will likely travel to Beijing soon to continue trade talks with China.
“We got some support from Mnuchin comments and then auto tariffs, that is a positive development as there was fear that tariffs would stretch to auto imports,” said Paul Brigandi, managing director of portfolio management at Direxion Funds in New York.
“Between now and June, when the G20 meeting happens, unless something is resolved, we’re in for a period of high volatility.”
Stocks came under pressure earlier in the day after U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in April as households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and a range of other goods, indicating a moderation in economic activity.
Worries about slowing growth were reinforced by a drop in industrial production last month.
Data from China also showed surprisingly weak growth in retail sales and industrial output for April, adding pressure on the country to roll out more stimulus.
The weak data hit U.S. Treasury yields and the interest rate sensitive banking stocks fell 1.01%. The broader financial sector dropped 0.56%, the most among the major 11 S&P sectors.
Concerns that the trade dispute could be protracted and may impact the global economy have kept investors on the edge over the past couple of days, with the benchmark S&P index now 3.9% below its all-time high reached two weeks ago.
At 11:09 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 40.71 points, or 0.16%, at 25,572.76, the S&P 500 was up 7.76 points, or 0.27%, at 2,842.17 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 50.19 points, or 0.65%, at 7,784.69.
Technology stocks jumped 0.7%, providing the biggest boost to markets. A more than 2% gain in shares of Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc lifted the communication services index by 1.3%, the most among major 11 S&P sectors.
Agilent Technologies Inc’s shares fell 9.9%, the most on the S&P 500, after the medical equipment maker reported quarterly results below estimates.
Perrigo Company Plc dropped 1.5% as Jefferies lowered its price target on the generic drugmaker after the company’s recent move to divest its higher margin generic pet care business.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.18-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 49 new lows.
(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Arun Koyyur)