By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher on Thursday after President Donald Trump appeared to soften his stance on trade tariffs, easing trade war fears that had had the market on edge for a week.
Trump announced import tariffs on steel and aluminum but said Canada and Mexico would be exempt and that other countries could apply for exemptions, although details of when they would be granted were thin.
"It's a softer play on the idea than the original 'sky was falling' reaction last week when it sounded like it was going to be across the board, no ifs, ands or buts, and everybody was just going to get hammered," he said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 93.85 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 24,895.21, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 12.17 points, or 0.45 percent, to 2,738.97 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 31.30 points, or 0.42 percent, to 7,427.95.
Ahead of the news that trickled out from the White House in the last hour and a half of the trading day, the S&P had zig-zagged in a tight range between positive and negative territory as investors were uncertain about what Trump would say.
Worries that the tariffs would ignite a global trade war have dominated markets since he announced the tariff plan last Thursday, and the exit of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn late Tuesday intensified the concerns.
But not everybody was pleased with the latest trade news.
"He dialed it back a little bit, but they're still tariffs, and we're still going in the wrong direction from a policy perspective if you're a markets-focused globalist. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes out with different tariffs on other things," he said.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.38-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.15-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.38 billion shares, compared to the 7.65 billion average for the last 20 trading days.