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Stocks have a listless day; Walgreens dives

FILE- In this May 10, 2018, file photo the opening bell hangs above the trading floor at the New Yor
The opening bell hangs above the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

U.S. stock indexes ended uneven Tuesday after a day of listless trading as the market lost some of its momentum after a three-day winning streak.

After a brief early slide, U.S. stocks mostly wavered between small gains and losses through the rest of the day. Gains for some big technology companies were offset by losses in other sectors.

Consumer products companies took some of the heaviest losses, led by drugstore chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance, which plunged after it slashed its forecast following a weak quarter. Its competitor CVS followed it down.

The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended essentially flat, having eked out a sliver of a gain, which was still good enough to extend the benchmark index’s winning streak into a fourth day. Small-company stocks fell.

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“You had some selling this morning, but it didn’t really materialize into much of anything,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “There will be plenty of market-moving things over the next few weeks.”

All told, the S&P 500 index edged up 0.05 of a point to 2,867.24. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 79.29 points, or 0.3%, to 26,179.13. The Nasdaq composite index rose 19.78 points, or 0.3%, to 7,848.69. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slipped 2.74 points, or 0.2%, to 1,553.32.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to 2.47% from 2.49%.

The day’s downbeat finish for stocks followed an overall strong stretch for the market.

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The S&P 500 finished the January-through-March period with its biggest quarterly gain in nearly a decade. The index is now up 14.4% this year, and it would need to rise just 2.2% to regain the peak it reached Sept. 20.

Investors are still not sure which direction to move as they weigh uncertainty over international trade issues and warnings over a weak first quarter for companies.

The U.S.-China trade dispute is still a key issue, said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“Nobody wants to buy with both hands, just in case,” he said. “But people won’t aggressively sell everything as well, just in case.”

Traders are looking ahead to Wednesday, when U.S.-China trade negotiations are due to resume. Officials from the world’s two biggest economies are aiming to put to rest a dispute over technology and other issues.

Friday also could bring market-moving news: The government is due to issue its tally of jobs added by U.S. employers last month. Economists project a gain of 170,000, according to FactSet.

“You have the start of the quarter and now you’re starting to go into wait-and-see mode until you get the jobs data on Friday,” Delwiche said.

Investors are gearing up for a slew of corporate earnings reports this month, as the next big wave of company results kick into gear next week.

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Wall Street expects a contraction in earnings during the first quarter, followed by slow growth for the rest of 2019. Any company commentary about their prospects for the next few quarters will be important in giving analysts and investors a better picture of the economy.

The technology, communication and real estate sectors were among those to squeeze out gains Tuesday. Apple rose 1.5%. Facebook climbed 3.3%. Boston Properties advanced 1.6%.

Walgreens dropped 12.8%, leading a slide in consumer products stocks after it reported a 14% drop in second-quarter profit. The company’s CEO described the quarter as the most difficult one the nation’s largest drugstore has faced since forming a few years ago. The company also slashed its forecast for 2019.

Rival drugstore giant CVS Health declined 3.8%.

Airline stocks rose after Delta Air Lines raised its profit forecast for the current quarter. Delta shares jumped 6%. United Continental climbed 2.3%, American Airlines Group advanced 2%, and JetBlue Airways rose 1.2%.

Dow Inc., which makes plastics and other products for consumer and industrial uses, climbed 5.1% in its first day of trading after being spun off from chemical maker DowDuPont.

Energy futures closed mostly higher. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 1.6% to settle at $62.58 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 0.5% to $69.37 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline climbed 1.6% to $1.93 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1% to $2.01 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.9% to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Gold inched up 0.1% to $1,295.40 an ounce. Silver slipped 0.3% to $15.06 an ounce. Copper fell 0.6% to $2.91 a pound.

The dollar held steady at 111.37 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1198 from $1.1211.


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