Investors were looking for news about the outlook for U.S.-Chinese trade negotiations following confusion over President Donald Trump's conflicting statements about the status of talks. Negotiators are due to meet in September but there has been no sign of progress. Investors worry the spiraling tariff war over trade and technology could tip the global economy into recession.
"Investors are growing more and more uncertain," said Hannah Anderson of JP Morgan Asset Management in a report. Markets are less sensitive to each announcement of U.S. and Chinese tariff hikes, but "we will likely continue to see downward price action at the announcements of new measures," said Anderson.
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1% to 2,890.50 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 declined 0.1% to 20,456.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was six points higher at 25,618.02. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.2% to 1,936.30 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 was up 3 points at 6,503.30. New Zealand declined while Taiwan and Singapore gained.
Wall Street closed broadly higher, recovering from the previous day's losses. Retailers, health care and industrial companies notched solid gains. Financial and energy stocks also helped power the rally.
The S&P 500 index rose 0.7% to 2,887.94. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1% to 26,036.10. The Nasdaq gained 0.4% to 7,856.88. Traders looking for safety snapped up U.S. government bonds. The trend drove long-term bond yields further below short-term ones. That inversion of the U.S. yield curve is a rare phenomenon that has correctly predicted previous recessions.
The yield in the 10-year Treasury fell below that of the two-year Treasury for a second day. The 10-year yield slid to 1.47%, down from 1.49% late Tuesday. The two-year dropped to 1.50% from 1.52%. When the U.S. yield curve inverted earlier this month for the first time since 2007, it led to a broad market sell-off. This week, investors' reaction has been more muted.
U.S. economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 2.1% in the April-June quarter from 3.1% in the first quarter. While an inverted yield curve has preceded every U.S. recession, it is not a signal that one is imminent. It has taken 14 to 34 months for past recessions to begin following a yield curve inversion.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 18 cents to $55.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 85 cents on Wednesday to close at $55.78. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 33 cents to $59.60 per barrel in London. It rose 90 cents the previous session to $59.93.
CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 105.89 yen from Wednesday's 106.11 yen. The euro gained to $1.1083 from $1.1078.