Tariffs, interest rates and unemployment data are all likely playing a role in the roller coaster ride the stock market has become.
President Donald Trump and China's government escalated their trade clash Friday, with Beijing vowing to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump follows through on threats to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods.
Trump made his out-of-the-blue move when China threatened to retaliate for the first round of tariffs planned by the United States. Trump left it unclear whether he was bluffing or willing to enter a protracted trade war pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other, with steep consequences for consumers, businesses and an already shaken stock market.
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"Right now, we're seeing volatility peak around fears of a trade war, and that's right to be concerned about, but it's still premature," said Jim Lowell of Adviser Investments. "We're in the early stages of what may turn out to be a fairly nasty and rancorous trade war."
"The uncertainty exists because right now, you're in kind of a 'playing chicken' kind of situation," said Juliana Liu, senior editor of "Inkstone," a new English-language news platform covering China for U.S. audiences.
The White House sent mixed signals on Friday as financial markets slid from investor concern about a significant trade fight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he was "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China could reach an agreement before any tariffs are implemented but added, "there is the potential of a trade war."
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. was "not in a trade war," adding, "China is the problem. Blame China, not Trump."