NEW YORK (AFP) – Wall Street stocks finished a volatile session mostly higher on Friday (May 29) after newly announced US policies to punish China did not threaten a trade detente between Washington and Beijing.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 25,383.11, down 0.1 per cent.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.5 per cent to 3,044.31, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1.3 per cent to 9,489.87.

Trading was choppy throughout the session, with major indices sinking into negative territory as a mid-afternoon White House speech by President Donald Trump began.

Trump harshly criticised China’s handling of the coronavirus, blaming the country for the deaths of 100,000 Americans, and announcing new actions including an end to funding for the World Health Organisation.

He also ordered probes of Chinese companies listed on American financial markets.

But Trump made no mention of the “phase one” trade agreement with China that walked back earlier trade tariffs, nor did he threaten new levies on US imports from the country.

“When (Trump) first started talking, he sounded pretty hawkish, there was an initial knee-jerk selloff,” said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O’Hare.

“When it became clear he wasn’t saying anything about tariffs, there was a snapback rally.”

Many analysts expect Trump to continue to rail against China in the months ahead as he faces a challenging path to re-election in light of Covid-19 and the resulting economic slowdown.

A US government survey showed a record 13.6 per cent drop in personal consumption in April, while personal income jumped 10.5 per cent due to the surge in government aid and unemployment payments under federal emergency spending measures.

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment gained slightly from March, but remains at its lowest since December 2012, according to a University of Michigan survey. However, confidence in the economic outlook ahead dropped sharply.

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank would roll outs its lending program for small businesses in the coming days as he reiterated the central bank’s plan to continue to take a muscular approach to supporting the US economy.

Among individual companies, Williams Sonoma surged 14 per cent as it reported a surprise profit despite having all its stores shuttered for more than half the quarter, fuelled by surging sales of cooking equipment with much of the US stuck at home under quarantine orders.

Salesforce.com fell 3.4 per cent following a disappointing forecast as the software giant reported a drop in first-quarter profits.