NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes finished a bit higher Monday as investors let go of some of their fears about a possible trade war between the U.S. and China. But far bigger gains slipped away as the market suffered a steep afternoon decline.
Stocks climbed higher and higher in the first hours of trading, and at about 2 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average was up 440 points. That put the market on track to make up almost all of the ground it lost during a big sell-off on Friday. But stocks have repeatedly changed course as investors tried to guess the outcome of the U.S.-China trade dispute, and they did it again Monday afternoon.
Health care companies finished with strong gains, and technology companies like Microsoft and Apple regained some of their recent losses. Banks rose along with interest rates. But industrial and retail companies finished with losses, and smaller companies fared worse than larger ones did.
"Every day the market wakes up and it struggles with whether it should pay attention to noise or pay attention to fundamentals," said Marina Severinovsky, an investment strategist at Schroders. She said stocks have done well recently when investors can get their minds off the trade disputes because the global economy and the U.S. economy are still growing.
When companies start to report their first-quarter results later this week, she added, the results are likely to be good.
The S&P 500 index gained 8.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,613.16. The S&P 500 fell 1.4 percent last week, with large losses Monday and Friday and strong gains in between.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,979.10. The Nasdaq composite jumped 35.23 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,950.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks added 1.17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,514.46.
The Russell index is composed of more U.S.-focused companies that are somewhat less vulnerable to the effects of tariffs, so its moves in response to the recent trade tensions haven't been as dramatic.
Most of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange finished lower Monday.
Investors don't know how the trade dispute might evolve and what it might mean for the global economy. While President Donald Trump continued to bash America's trade deals on Twitter Monday, he said the U.S. and China could settle their dispute. But things looked worse at the end of last week, when Trump threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods. China has pledged to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump decides to follow through on that threat. The two nations had already proposed $50 billion in tariffs on imports, but none of that has taken effect yet.
"We don't have a trade war," said Severinovsky, of Schroders. "We have potential suggestions of things that could happen.
Swiss drugmaker Novartis agreed to buy AveXis for $8.7 billion, or $218 a share, as it aims to become a leader in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. AveXis is studying a treatment for a disorder called spinal muscular atrophy Type 1, which Novartis called the top genetic cause of death in infants.
AveXis climbed $94.55, or 81.6 percent, to $210.46 and Novartis added 87 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $81.07.
Agribusiness company Monsanto jumped $7.29, or 6.2 percent, to $125.15 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice will approve its sale to German conglomerate Bayer.
This week will be a big one for Facebook as it tries to get its data privacy scandal under control. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is meeting with legislators and will testify before Congress later this week as the company has embarked on a high profile effort to convince users, advertisers and investors that it is serious about fixing problems that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and about user privacy as a whole.
Facebook picked up 73 cents to $157.93. Its stock is down almost 15 percent since March 16.
Facebook's woes have affected other social media companies and big technology companies, including Google's parent company, Alphabet. Severinovsky said investors are considering the possibility that the companies will be regulated in ways they never have been, which will create new costs and affect their earnings. But she thinks they will continue to do well.
"These companies are going to continue to be very profitable," she said.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.78 percent from 2.77 percent late Friday.
Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.36, or 2.2 percent, to $63.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added $1.54, or 2.3 percent, to $68.65 a barrel London.
Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.98 a gallon. Heating oil rose 4 cents to $2 a gallon. Natural gas lost 1 cent to $2.69 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose $4 to $1,340.10 an ounce. Silver gained 17 cents to $16.53 an ounce. Copper picked up 2 cents to $3.08 a pound.
The dollar fell to 106.78 yen from 106.85 yen. The euro rose to $1.2322 from $1.2285.
Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent and the CAC 40 in France edged up 0.1 percent. The British FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent.
Asian stocks fared better. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.5 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.3 percent. Seoul's Kospi added 0.6 percent.