NEW YORK - A gauge of global stocks eked out a gain as Wall Street closed higher on rises in financial and technology shares on Thursday, but U.S.-driven trade tensions continued to weigh on sentiment and boosted safety buying of Treasuries and German Bunds.
Wall Street technology shares rose a day after slumping on the U.S.-China trade dispute and financial stocks found favor after a 13-day losing streak.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 98.46 points, or 0.41 percent, to 24,216.05, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 16.68 points, or 0.62 percent, to 2,716.31, and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 58.60 points, or 0.79 percent, to 7,503.68.
The S&P 500 earlier in the day seesawed between gains and losses, stung by a drop in the S&P health sector after Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> announced the acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack, sparking a selloff in shares of drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy benefit managers.
An escalating trade fight between the United States and major partners, including China, the European Union and Canada, also continued to exert pressure.
"There's been inconsistency out of the White House as to what the (trade) policy actually is," said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago. "We're all just waiting and tapping our foot to see the actual policy."
European shares and Chinese shares reacted to plans outlined late on Wednesday by U.S. President Donald Trump and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to clamp down on Chinese acquisitions of sensitive American technologies.
After clawing back some ground on Wednesday, the pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> and Germany's trade-sensitive DAX <.GDAXI> were down 0.8 and 1.4 percent respectively, with technology and carmakers taking the biggest hits.
Asian shares dropped to a nine-month trough and MSCI's emerging market index <.MSCIEF> - which includes other hard-hit countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa - was at its weakest in almost a year.
MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> was up 0.08 pct.
U.S. Treasury and German Bund yields remained near one-month lows as investors moved into bonds for the guaranteed returns stocks cannot offer.
The yield curve between two-year and 10-year U.S. Treasury notes <US2US10=TWEB> traded just above the low of 32 basis points reached on Wednesday, which was the flattest since 2007.
A battle over migration policy in Germany’s coalition government additionally boosted demand for safe-haven debt, raising concerns that the euro zone's biggest economy could be headed for snap elections.
The U.S. dollar index <.DXY>, which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies, rose against the safer Japanese yen in the absence of trade-related rhetoric for the day.
The dollar was up 0.26 percent against the yen, at 110.54 yen.
Gold fell to its lowest level in more than six months on mounting pressure from trade disputes, the expectation of higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar.
A strong greenback makes dollar-priced gold costlier for non U.S. investors and while falling equities, seen as risky assets, usually help safe-haven gold, they have failed to do so this time.
Oil prices climbed, with U.S. crude hitting a 3-1/2-year high, bolstered by supply concerns due to U.S. sanctions that could cause a large drop in crude exports from Iran.
West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> futures rose 69 cents, nearly 1 percent, to settle at $73.45 a barrel. It reached $74.03 earlier in the session, the highest since Nov. 26, 2014.
Brent crude <LCOc1> futures rose 23 cents to settle at $77.85 a barrel.