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Stock indexes barely budge; Overstock dives

New York Stock Exchange
Monday on Wall Street was “a bit of calm after the storm,” one analyst said.
(Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)

Wall Street had a listless day Monday, and major stock indexes closed little changed.

Losses in the healthcare, communication services and industrial sectors outweighed gains in technology stocks, consumer-centric companies and banks. Bond yields declined, a sign that investors were seeking to avoid some risk.

U.S. stocks had a wobbly morning as investors digested some weak economic figures out of Germany. Even so, Monday was a relatively quiet day after last week, when the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates again and fresh jitters over the next round of U.S.-China trade negotiations helped give the Standard & Poor’s 500 index its first week of losses after three straight gains.

“It’s a bit of calm after the storm,” said Craig Birk, chief investment officer at Personal Capital.

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The S&P 500 inched down 0.29 of a point, or less than 0.1%, to 2,991.78. The Dow rose 14.92 points, or 0.1%, to 26,949.99. The Nasdaq slipped 5.21 points, or 0.1%, to 8,112.46. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slipped 1.52 points, or 0.1%, to 1,558.25.

The major indexes are each up modestly for the month and the quarter. The benchmark S&P 500 index remains close to the all-time high it set in July.

Bond prices rose, pulling the yield on the 10-year Treasury down to 1.72% from 1.75%.

E-commerce firm Overstock.com dived 25.3% after the company cut its financial forecast partly because tariffs have increased the costs of goods from China. It also named Jonathan Johnson as its new CEO. He has been acting CEO since August, when Patrick Byrne resigned.

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This week, several companies could provide a clearer picture this week of how the U.S.-China trade war is affecting their business.

Nike, which could be a gauge of the trade war’s effect on shoemakers and retailers, will report quarterly results Tuesday. Technology company Micron will post quarterly results Thursday.

“Tariffs have been around for a while now and the whole trade conflict is almost 2 years old,” Birk said. “We’ll start to see more this quarter if tariffs are truly having an impact, how well companies are able to navigate that or how much it’s just an excuse.”

Meanwhile, oil prices and the energy sector could experience more volatility this week as Trump takes seeks a coalition to confront Iran, which the United States blames for this month’s attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest laggards Monday. UnitedHealth Group slid 1.8%. Medical supply company McKesson declined 2.7%.

Netflix, one of the big decliners in the communication services sector, lost 1.8%.

Chipmakers were big winners in tech stocks. Nvidia rose 1.2%. Qualcomm gained 1%. Several retailers and restaurant chains also gained ground. Target climbed 2%. McDonald’s rose 1%.

Utilities showed small gains. Investors typically shift to that sector and bonds when they are seeking safer places to put their money amid worries about economic growth.

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Benchmark crude oil rose 55 cents to settle at $58.64 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 49 cents to close at $64.77 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline stayed at $1.68 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 1 cent to $2.00 a gallon. Natural gas stayed at $2.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $16.40 to $1,523.70 an ounce, silver rose 86 cents to $18.60 an ounce, and copper stayed at $2.59 a pound.

Major stock indexes in Europe closed broadly lower as a gauge of Germany’s private-sector activity contracted for the first time in nearly seven years, according to IHS Markit.

Germany is Europe’s largest economy and often acts as an indicator for the continent’s overall economic health. The latest data add to worries that Europe is facing a slowdown. The European Central Bank is urging governments to spend more on stimulus as economic growth stalls.


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