New York: Most US stocks fell on Thursday, with small caps leading declines, as trade tensions continued to weigh on financial markets. The dollar jumped after the European Central Bank sounded a cautious note on growth.

The S&P 500 Index sagged, with more than two-thirds of stocks in the benchmark declining. Real estate and utilities led gainers, while banks again came under pressure. The greenback edged higher as US jobless claims came in below estimates. Treasuries were little changed.

Investors are studying the latest moves in the global trade tug of war, after Chinese importers resumed buying US soybeans and Beijing reiterated that its officials were in close contact with Washington counterparts on negotiating details of a broader deal.

But worries remain: China detained a second citizen of Canada for questioning, further heightening tensions between the two countries, and Trump administration officials on Wednesday signalled that Beijing will have to do more to end the tariff war. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that there have been “frequent conversations" with China, which gave a good road map to resolving many issues.

“On the fixed-income side, investors are focused on economic growth and what the Fed is thinking about for next year," said Jim Barnes, director of fixed income at Bryn Mawr Trust. “On the equity side, it continues to trade on headline news related to trade. That’s been happening for a while and it continues to happen."

The ECB kept interest rates unchanged, confirmed an end to its asset-purchase program and provided more details on its reinvestment plan. Speaking after the decision, President Mario Draghi said the balance of risks to the euro area had moved to the downside.

The pound gained after European Union leaders were said to be set to discuss issuing a declaration on the Irish backstop that would help Prime Minister Theresa May get a Brexit deal through Parliament. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index finished lower, while Hong Kong and Chinese shares outperformed as equities across Asia extended their rebound.

West Texas crude erased losses to climb above $51 a barrel. Gold declined.

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