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Stock indexes slide a bit, led by tech sector

New York Stock Exchange
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.2% to 2,989.69 — 1.2% below the all-time high it set in July.
(Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)

Stocks on Wall Street traded listlessly Wednesday, ending with modest losses, as the market gave back some of its gains from the day before.

Technology stocks accounted for most of the selling. Energy companies also fell. Financial-sector stocks declined as bond yields, which are used to set interest rates on loans, headed down.

Investors spent the day weighing mixed data on the economy and the latest corporate earnings reports.

A move Tuesday by the House of Representatives to show support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong appeared to dim some investor optimism about the prospects for progress in the latest trade talks between the United States and China.

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“We’re in the height of earnings season, and the results that we got last night, as well as this morning, I would characterize as better than feared,” said Cayman Wills, global head of equities at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. ”On the other side of the pendulum, you have this development on U.S.-China trade relations and the pro-democracy position that Congress took skews slightly negative.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 5.99 points, or 0.2%, to 2,989.69 — 1.2% below the all-time high it set in July. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 22.82 points, or 0.1%, to 27,001.98. The Nasdaq fell 24.52 points, or 0.3%, to 8,124.18. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks eked out a tiny gain, rising 1.76 points, or 0.1%, to 1,525.06.

The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales fell in September for the first time in seven months, stoking worries that consumers are pulling back on spending. That would be concerning because consumer spending is a key growth driver for the U.S. economy, which has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has escalated.

Stocks are on track to notch gains this week, in part because investors have mostly set aside concerns over the trade negotiations in favor of focusing on corporate earnings reports.

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Even so, companies’ third-quarter earnings are expected to be down nearly 5%, according to FactSet.

United Airlines shares climbed 2.1% and Bank of America rose 1.5% on Wednesday after the companies posted third-quarter results that beat Wall Street’s forecasts.

A mixed third-quarter report card weighed on insurer Progressive, whose shares dropped 2.8%.

Tech-sector stocks took a hit. Microsoft fell 0.8%. Adobe slid 2.4%.

Companies that rely on consumer spending led the gainers. Shares of retailer Advance Auto Parts climbed 1.9%.

Home builders marched broadly higher after an industry survey showed builders’ confidence increased to the highest level since February 2018. Beazer Homes USA shares gained 3.6%.

General Motors rose 1.1% after the automaker and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative labor deal.

A potential settlement in the opioid epidemic involving some of the nation’s largest drug distributors helped lift their shares. McKesson climbed 4.8%, AmerisourceBergen rose 3.4%, and Cardinal Health gained 2.4%.

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Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.75% from 1.77%.

Benchmark crude oil rose 55 cents to $53.36 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 68 cents to $59.42 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 3 cents to $1.94 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $2.30 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $10.40 to $1,488.00 an ounce. Silver rose 4 cents to $17.35 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.58 a pound.


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