By Christopher Whittall
U.S. stocks edged lower Friday but headed toward modest monthly gains, as investors awaited a key meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 53 points, or 0.2%, to 25290 shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 lost less than 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite edged down 0.2%.
For the month, the S&P and Dow industrials were up 0.9% and 0.7% respectively, a turnaround after both indexes suffered their weakest month in years in October. The Nasdaq was poised to close down 0.6%.
Stocks failed to break out to new highs in November as worries about the U.S. and China's trade spat, slowing global growth and tumbling technology shares kept a lid on investors' enthusiasm.
Some hope that the U.S. and China, which are set to meet this weekend at the Group of 20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, will eventually find a way to ease tensions. But many continue to believe trade will continue to be an overhang on markets in the new year.
The S&P 500 had climbed nearly 10% for the year to a record in mid-September, but has since pared those gains to trade up only 2.4% in 2018 after a bruising October selloff. Analysts say the recent volatility is symptomatic of the cloudy outlook facing investors.
"We have a higher level of uncertainty" when it comes to trade, the path of interest rates and global growth, said Ken Monaghan, co-head of high yield at Amundi Pioneer.
"When uncertainty goes up, investors require a higher return," he added.
In bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was slightly lower at 3.011%, according to Tradeweb. Yields have declined this week as Federal Reserve officials have signaled greater uncertainty about maintaining quarterly interest-rate rises next year.
"We do think we're moving into a more volatile world, because to some extent we're moving into a more normal world...[with] the Fed normalizing interest rates," said Andrew Wilson, EMEA chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
Commodities were mixed, with oil prices down after bouncing Thursday on reports that Russian officials are signaling a likely production cut in tandem with other major oil producers. U.S. crude oil slid 2.3% to $50.25 a barrel, deepening losses for the year that have taken it into bear market territory.
Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.3%, dragged lower by declines in auto and banking shares and on track for its second consecutive month of losses.
Deutsche Bank shares came under pressure again after German authorities raided the lender's offices Thursday as part of a money-laundering probe. Shares were down 2.8%.
Auto stocks were also lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Autos & Parts subindex sliding 1.5%. Shares in the industry have been under pressure this week after General Motors announced plans to shut down several U.S. factories.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose for a sixth straight session, gaining 0.4% to close out November with a nearly 2% gain.
The Shanghai Composite ended November with a modest monthly loss despite rising Friday. The index is down nearly 22% this year amid increasing trade tensions with the U.S.
"We still think there's a significant risk that this trade situation escalates, and that's particularly bad for China," Mr. Wilson said.
Akane Otani contributed to this article
Write to Christopher Whittall at email@example.com