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Stocks edge down during a listless day

Stocks edge down during a listless day
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1% to 25,806.63 on Tuesday. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Tuesday’s mostly listless session on Wall Street ended with stocks closing slightly lower as losses in the industrial, technology and financial sectors outweighed gains elsewhere in the market.

Major U.S. stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses much of the day, with communications companies and retailers bucking the overall market decline. Mixed data on new U.S. home sales pulled home builders down.

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Investors are looking ahead to a busy stretch of economic data releases this week and the Federal Reserve’s next interest rate policy meeting in two weeks. Meanwhile, they are continuing to wait for new details on the U.S.-China trade talks.

Stock prices already reflect the recent investor optimism that the world’s two biggest economies are close to reaching a deal, said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

“We’ll know those details when they’re announced,” he said. “That’s part of what the market is digesting.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 3.16 points, or 0.1%, to 2,789.65. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.02 points, or 0.1%, to 25,806.63. The Nasdaq composite slipped 1.21 points to 7,576.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 7.15 points, or 0.5%, to 1,568.28.

Absent news on trade, investors have been keeping an eye on retailers, many of which have been reporting quarterly results the last two weeks.

Target climbed 4.6% and Kohl’s jumped 7.3% on Tuesday after reporting encouraging quarterly results and outlooks, leading retailers higher. Many retailers had to grapple with an overall slowdown in sales at the end of last year on top of growing competition from Amazon and other e-commerce companies. Target noted strong online sales and traffic growth during the crucial holiday sales quarter, however.

Home builders declined broadly after the Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes rose 3.7% in December, the highest pace in seven months. Even so, sales were down from a year earlier. Meritage Homes slid 3.6%.

Industrial and technology stocks accounted for much of the market’s slide Tuesday, offsetting strength in other sectors. General Electric slumped 4.7%, and chipmaker Micron Technology fell 2.6%.

Hertz sank 9.9% after activist investor Carl Icahn cut his holdings in the car rental company.

Papa John’s International rose 5% after reaching a settlement with founder John Schnatter that calls for him step down from the board once an independent director replaces him. The pizza chain has been floundering since Schnatter took a series of missteps, first blaming disappointing sales on NFL player protests and then using a racial slur during a company conference call. He stepped down as chief executive in 2017 and later resigned as chairman of the board.

U.S. crude slipped 0.1% to $56.56 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 0.3% to $65.86 a barrel in London.

Bond prices held steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 2.72%.

The dollar fell to 111.89 yen from 111.94 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1303 from $1.1325.

Gold fell 0.2% to $1,284.70 an ounce. Silver was little changed at $15.11 an ounce. Copper rose 0.8% to $2.93 a pound.

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Wholesale gasoline climbed 1.1% to $1.77 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 0.1% to $2.02 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.9% to $2.88 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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