Stocks eke out record high after listless day of trading

The market has been gaining ground for weeks on hopes that the U.S. and China can make progress in their latest push for a trade deal.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

A day of listless trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with another record high for the S&P 500.

The benchmark index notched its third consecutive gain after spending most of the day wavering between small gains and losses. The Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq composite also budged little, capping the day with miniscule drops.

The market’s lethargic turn came on a day with little market-moving news. Investors were still awaiting more details on the status of trade talks between the U.S. and China.

Published reports have suggested this week that negotiations between the world’s two largest economies have hit some snags. Beijing is pressing Washington to roll back tariffs as part of a potential deal that the nations are trying to hammer out.


The S&P 500 rose 2.59 points, or 0.1%, to 3,096.63. The Dow slipped 1.63 points, or less than 0.1%, to 27,781.96. The index had briefly been down around 100 points.

The Nasdaq fell 3.08 points, or less than 0.1%, to 8,479.02.

The broader market has been gaining ground for weeks on hopes that the U.S. and China can make progress in their latest push for a deal. Investors have also been encouraged by surprisingly good corporate earnings and data showing the economy is still growing solidly. And the Federal Reserve has helped, lowering interest rates three times this year. The central bank has signaled that it’s done lowering rates, for now, unless the U.S. economy shows any major signs of trouble.

Investors hope that Washington and Beijing can come to some sort of an agreement to avert new and potentially more damaging tariffs that are scheduled to take effect in the middle of next month. Those new tariffs would hit some popular consumer products, such as electronic devices, as well as everyday goods. President Trump has been dismissive about any change to tariffs while negotiations continue.


China did make a goodwill gesture of sorts Thursday when it moved to lift a four-year ban on U.S. poultry products. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest poultry exporter, with global exports of poultry meat and products of $4.3 billion last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than $1 billion in poultry could be exported to China annually. The move sent shares in processed food companies higher. Tyson Foods rose 1.7%, Sanderson Farms gained 3.7% and Pilgrim’s Pride added 1.1%.

Consumer-focused stocks, including Target and Lowe’s, were the best performers Thursday, offsetting declines in technology and energy companies.

Technology stocks were the biggest losers. Cisco Systems fell 7.3% after giving investors a surprisingly weak revenue forecast.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.82% from 1.87% late Wednesday.


Benchmark crude oil fell 35 cents to settle at $56.77 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped 9 cents to close at $62.28 a barrel.

Gold rose $10.10 to $1,471.80 per ounce and silver rose 11 cents to $17.01 per ounce.

The dollar fell to 108.37 Japanese yen from 108.79 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1022 from $1.1002.