Stocks up after plunge

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks clawed most of their way back from a deep slide Thursday that at one point had wiped out the market’s gains for the year.

An early plunge briefly knocked more than 700 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average as the arrest of a senior Chinese technology executive threatened to cause another flare-up in tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The sell-off eased by late afternoon, however, after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Reserve is considering breaking with its current approach of steady interest rate hikes, favoring a wait-and-see approach. That was a relief to investors worried that the Fed might raise interest rates too fast, which could choke off economic growth.

“The Fed is trying to, in essence, come out and make it clear they are not on a rigid schedule of rate hikes next year,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The S&P 500 index fell 4.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,695.95. The benchmark index had been down as much as 2.9 percent.

The Dow dropped 79.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,947.67. The average briefly slumped as much as 784 points.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite reversed an early loss to finish with a gain, adding 29.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,188.26.

The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 3.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,477.41.

U.S. stock and bond trading were closed Wednesday because of a national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.

Traders continued to shovel money into bonds, a signal that they see weakness in the economy ahead. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.87 percent from 2.92 percent on Tuesday.

Volatility has gripped the market since early October. Investors have worried that the Fed might overshoot with its campaign of rate increases and put the brakes on the U.S. economy. Likewise, traders fear that a prolonged trade dispute between the U.S. and China could slow the global economy and crimp corporate profits. The market’s mood can quickly swing depending on what it hears on either of those issues.

Last week, stocks jumped after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year while it gauges the impact of its credit tightening program.

The Fed has raised rates three times this year and is expected to boost rates for a fourth time at its Dec. 18-19 meeting of policymakers. That steady pace of rate hikes has begun to worry some investors amid growing signs that some sectors of the economy are hurting, including the housing market. At the same time, there has been growing evidence that global economic growth is slowing.

“The market seems right now to be focused on increased risks for a 2020 recession,” said Patrick Schaffer, Global Investment Specialist, J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “It’s a very hard market to buy when you see really strong signals that we are indeed late (in the economic) cycle.”

Thursday’s initial wave of selling in the market came about as traders reacted to the news that Canadian authorities arrested the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies on Wednesday for possible extradition to the U.S. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said Meng Wanzhou is suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

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