Trader Frederick Reimer works on the floor of the NYSE...

Trader Frederick Reimer works on the floor of the NYSE on Feb. 6, 2018. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks meandered but finished mostly higher Tuesday as retailers and industrial companies rose.

A jump in metals prices helped mining and materials companies.

Stocks have edged higher over the last three days, but they’ve frequently bounced up and down as investors grappled with the Trump administration’s stance on trade and whether the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will push inflation higher in the U.S. and lead to retaliation by other countries that would hurt economic growth and corporate profits.

Kristina Hooper, chief global markets strategist for Invesco, said Wall Street is having trouble deciding if the tariffs are more of a bargaining chip in trade negotiations, as President Donald Trump has suggested at times in the last few days, or if they are a goal on their own.

“When it seemed as though it was just rhetoric (Monday), markets relaxed,” she said. “Today, I think concerns have grown that maybe this isn’t just a bargaining tactic.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke up against the proposed tariffs Tuesday and called for a “more surgical approach” that might cause less backlash.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,728.12. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 9.36 points to 24,884.12. It rose as much as 120 points early on and later fell as much as 166 points before recovering.

The Nasdaq composite jumped 41.30 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,372.01.

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