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Stocks end nearly flat after early rally loses momentum

Wall Street
The Nasdaq composite index finished with its second record high in three days.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Stocks on Wall Street closed nearly flat Tuesday after an early rally lost momentum toward the end of the day.

The Nasdaq composite index still finished with its second record high in three days, while the Dow Jones industrial average ended at the same all-time high it set a day earlier.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 crossed above the 3,100 level for the first time, placing the index on track for its own milestone finish, but the gains didn’t hold. Still, the benchmark index rebounded nearly all the way back from its Monday loss.

“There was some excitement on breaking 3,100,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “But we’ve had such an amazing two weeks that without any blockbuster news, it was going to be difficult for us to continue higher.”

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President Trump gave an update Tuesday on trade negotiations with China, saying both sides are close to a “Phase 1” deal. The markets didn’t react much to his remarks.

The S&P 500 rose 4.83 points, or 0.2%, to 3,091.84. The index, which is near the record high it set Friday, has notched gains the last five weeks.

The Dow closed unchanged at 27,691.49 points. The Nasdaq rose 21.81 points, or 0.3%, to 8,486.09, a record.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies inched up 0.35 of a point, or less than 0.1%, to 1,595.12.

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The market’s momentum has been mostly upward for more than five weeks as worries about the U.S.-China trade war have eased, among other factors.

Trump gave markets more reason for optimism on trade during his Tuesday speech at the Economic Club of New York. Trump said the two sides are “close,” and that a “Phase 1” deal on trade “could happen soon.”

Trump’s latest update on trade followed conflicting signals from U.S. and Chinese officials last week on whether the two sides have agreed to any tariff rollbacks as part of the tentative trade agreement they’re negotiating.

Besides expectations for a stopgap deal on the trade war, stocks have jumped recently because of interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, data showing the economy is still growing solidly and corporate earnings reports for the summer that weren’t as weak as expected.

The rising confidence in markets has meant fewer buyers piling into the safety of gold, which dropped Tuesday to its lowest price in more than three months.

Treasury yields fell slightly after trading resumed after Monday’s holiday in observance of Veterans Day. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.92% from 1.93%. It was below 1.50% in early September and has been rallying with confidence in the economy’s strength.

Reports have shown that the job market is still growing, which should help households keep spending at a strong clip. Such spending makes up the bulk of the economy, and the expectation is that it can more than make up for the weakness in manufacturing that the trade war is causing.

“That’s the next thing we look for,” Kinahan said, noting that Black Friday, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, is only a couple of weeks away. “Expectations are really high for spending. So, does the consumer live up to it?”

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Healthcare, technology and communication services stocks led the gainers Tuesday, outweighing losses in energy companies and elsewhere.

Disney rose 1.3% on the day that its highly anticipated streaming video service, Disney+, launched. The service had some technical difficulties in the morning, an indication that demand may have been higher than expected.

Rockwell Automation jumped 10.5% — one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 — after the company reported earnings that were better than analysts expected.

Advance Auto Parts skidded 7.5% after the auto parts retailer cut its full-year estimates for sales and income.

Across the S&P 500, companies are on track to report a 2.4% drop in third-quarter earnings per share compared with a year earlier. That’s not as bad as the 4% decline analysts initially expected, according to FactSet. About 90% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported their results so far.

It’s a busy week for economic data. The U.S. Labor Department will give updates on consumer and wholesale inflation. Economists expect a government report to show that retail sales returned to growth in October.

And Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell is scheduled to give testimony to Congress on Wednesday about the U.S. economy. Most investors expect the Fed to keep interest rates steady for now after cutting them three times since the summer.

Benchmark crude oil fell 6 cents to $56.80 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell 12 cents to $62.06 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1 cent to $1.90 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Gold fell $3.40 to $1,451.10 an ounce. Silver fell 9 cents to $16.68 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.64 a pound.


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