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Trump told industry executives Thursday he plans to impose a tariff of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, sparking fears of escalating retaliation between countries. The Nasdaq rose 23 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,203.

Stocks are mostly lower on Wall Street as investors worry that an escalation of trade tensions could harm big US companies and the global economy.

USA stocks closed mostly higher in a wild action on Friday, with the Nasdaq and S&P 500 snapping a three-session losing streak as President Donald Trump escalated the rhetoric around a potential trade war in the wake of a pledge for tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. That means Apple and other big USA companies are dependent on customers not only in Peoria but also Paris and Peru.

Best Buy jumped around 5 percent after it reported strong same-store sales for the fourth quarter, recovering from falls overnight due to the USA consumer electronics retailer's announcement of 250 small mobile phone store closures. Last year, the worst weekly loss was just 1.4 percent.

Treasury yields rose, as did gold, on inflation concerns.

The trade worries are piling onto a market that was already nervous.

THE QUOTE: "Federal Reserve Chairman Powell erred to the hawkish side and had speculation running rampant that the Feds will trigger quicker pace of interest rate increases as the economy accelerates", says Stephen Innes, head of trading at Oanda, referring to remarks earlier in the week that has the market anticipating higher interest rates in the U.S. That could easily upset markets, which had been enjoying a remarkably smooth ride a year ago. Some investors took that as a signal that the Fed may get more aggressive, which sent stocks down and Treasury yields higher. Later in the week, though, Mr. Powell may have calmed some of the fears when he said that he does not see inflation in wages "at a point of acceleration".

Such a dance is typical when central banks are raising interest rates and "tightening" financial conditions, rather than easing, said Schutte. "They want to advance the ball gradually". Gap shares rose 6 percent.

The biggest loss in the S&P 500 came from Foot Locker, which plunged after it said sales trends were weaker last quarter than analysts expected. Its shares dropped $7.43, or 4.8 percent, to $148.27.

For Chinese companies listed in the U.S., shares of e-commerce giant Alibaba fell 1.29 per cent to settle at $179.76 apiece, while shares of another technology company Baidu increased 0.34 per cent to close at $250.60 per share.

"But unless there's a follow through from trading partners in terms of retaliatory issues I don't think it's going to be that big an issue for the markets or the economy in general", said Noman Ali, a portfolio manager with Manulife Asset Management.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 plunged 2.5 per cent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 1.5 per cent and South Korea's Kospi dropped 1 per cent.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 16 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,661. The FTSE 100 in London gave up 1.5 percent.

The April crude contract was up 26 cents to US$61.25 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was unchanged at US$2.70 per mmBTU. Brent crude, the global standard, lost 44 cents to $63.39 per barrel.

Bond yields and the price of gold rose Friday, both signs that investors expect inflation might tick up.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 106.68 Japanese yen from 107.18 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.2305 from $1.2255, and the British pound fell to $1.3759 from $1.3768.