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It's been a crazy 12 hours for US-China trade news — here's what we know

CNBC logo CNBC 3 days ago Fred Imbert

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 30, 2019.© Provided by CNBC LLC Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 30, 2019.

Investors' heads have been left spinning over the past 12 hours after a slew of conflicting headlines related to the U.S.-China trade talks sent stock futures for a wild ride.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dropped more than 300 points overnight at one point. By Thursday morning, however, Dow futures were only down about 50 points.

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"The ongoing back-and-forth continues to offer opportunities to fade over-reactions in the market," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates at BMO Capital Markets. "At some point, however, there will be some semblance of outcomes across these dimensions, though we fear the finales may underwhelm as they are wont to do."

The sharp moves came as Wall Street braced for the latest round of U.S.-China trade talks, which were set to begin Thursday. What set off the volatile swings was a report saying the much-anticipated negotiations might end earlier than expected.

China leaving early?

The South China Morning Post reported Wednesday night that the high-level talks would only take place Thursday. The report said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and the rest of China's delegation scheduled to leave Thursday night instead of Friday, as was expected.

White House: Inaccurate

However, a White House spokesman later told CNBC's Kayla Tausche the South China Morning Post's report was inaccurate. "We are not aware of a change in the Vice Premier's travel plans at this time." A senior White House official also told Tausche that Liu was still scheduled to depart Friday evening.

The White House denial helped futures recover from those losses. However, a principal in the negotiations told CNBC that the schedule around the U.S.-China trade talks had indeed become "fluid," with Friday's session being an "open question." The source said one possibility was for Vice Minister Liao Min to stay in Washington through Friday while He left early. Another possibility is the high-level negotiations end Thursday after just one day.

Currency pact?

The headlines deluge did not end there. Bloomberg News later reported the U.S. was thinking about suspending a tariff increase scheduled for next week in exchange for a currency pact. The report said this is something the U.S. and China were close to agreeing to in previous talks.

Huawei deal?

The New York Times also said the Trump administration plans to allow the sale of some supplies to Huawei, a giant telecom company in China. The administration restricted sales to Huawei in May, citing concerns over national security. Stock futures clawed back to trade off their lows following these reports.

"We expect the WH to announce that progress has been made sufficient to put the Oct 15 tariff on 'indefinite hold,'" said Donald Straszheim, head of China research at Evercore ISI, in a note. "If we are correct on these delays, the tariff war has already hit its peak intensity. That's a plus. Both sides we believe want to turn down the heat. Tariffs hurt everybody."

—CNBC's Michael Bloom and Lori Ann LaRocco contributed to this report.


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