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Stocks close slightly lower after a choppy day of trading

Wall Street
A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange is shown.
(Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images)

Stocks capped a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street with modest losses Monday, a shaky start after the market had just recorded its first weekly gain in a month.

Losses in consumer goods makers, utilities and technology stocks helped outweigh gains in banks and real estate companies. A 2% drop in crude oil prices also hurt energy stocks.

Trading was choppy for much of the day after falling in the early going. The muted trading wiped out some of the gains from a rally on Friday, when investors welcomed signs of progress in the latest round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.

Washington and Beijing agreed to a truce, with the U.S. holding off on tariffs set to kick in this week and China agreeing to buy more farm goods. But the U.S. has yet to cancel plans for more tariffs in December and the nations still have several complicated issues to negotiate, which may have dimmed some of the optimism about a broader trade deal.

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The S&P 500 index slipped 4.12 points, or 0.1%, to 2,966.15. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 29.23 points, or 0.1%, to 26,787.36. The Nasdaq gave up 8.39 points, or 0.1%, to 8,048.65.

Bond markets and the U.S. government were closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

The modest stocks pullback followed last week’s market rally, when investors applauded the progress made by the U.S. and China following two days of negotiations. The U.S. tentatively agreed to suspend a planned hike in tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods that had been set to kick in Tuesday. Beijing, meanwhile, agreed to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. farm products.

But the key sticking points of intellectual property and trade secrets still hang over the dispute. And Bloomberg reported Monday that China wants to hold more talks to hammer out the deal’s details before President Xi Jinping agrees to sign it.

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Benchmark crude oil fell $1.11 to settle at $53.59 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped $1.16 to close at $59.35 a barrel.

Investors are looking ahead to the start of the third-quarter earnings season, with companies beginning to report results over the next few weeks.

Several major banks are due to issue their latest quarterly financial results this week. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will all report results on Tuesday. Bank of America and PNC Financial will report results on Wednesday.

Expectations for S&P 500 companies’ third-quarter results are generally low, with analysts forecasting a drop of 4.2% from a year ago.

“The market is a little bit nervous about earnings because there are some estimates out there that say there’s going to be negative growth,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior markets strategist at Voya Investment Management, noting she expects overall earnings for the July-September quarter to show growth from a year ago.

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Gold rose $9 to $1,491.70 per ounce and silver rose 17 cents to $17.63 per ounce.

The dollar fell to 108.37 Japanese yen from 108.52 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1031 from $1.1041.


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