The Dow bounced back Thursday afternoon from a nearly 800-point deficit, and the S&P fought back to end flat.
Tech and internet stocks drove the Nasdaq higher.
Pressuring stocks in the morning: tumbling Treasury yields, plunging oil prices and foremost - fears U.S.-China trade tensions would flare up after the arrest of a top executive at smartphone maker, Huawei Technologies.
That also sent major European markets down more than 3 percent.
Luken Investment Analytics founder Gregory Luken: SOUNDBITE: LUKEN INVESTMENT ANALYTICS FOUNDER GREGORY LUKEN, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There's absolutely fear in this market, and that's what's driving it.
And you see a lot of talk about the 'death cross' in the S&P 500.
But seven of the last eight times, the 50 days crossed below the 200 day, it's been a better buying point than a selling point." Apple shares, down 24 percent for the quarter, were the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
Weighng on the Dow: trade sensitive shares of jet maker, Boeing.
In economics news, the U.S. trade deficit jumped to a 10-year high in October, suggesting President Donald Trump's measures have likely failed to shrink the trade gap.