Indexes inch up as stocks churn, markets await trade deal
The U.S. stock market inched higher Monday, the latest nudge in its record-setting, six-week run, as markets wait for the next development in trade talks between the United States and China.
All three major indexes edged above the all-time highs they set Friday, though the seemingly placid moves masked plenty of churn going on underneath. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.57 points, or 0.1%, to 3,122.03. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 31.33, or 0.1%, to 28,036.22, and the Nasdaq composite index climbed 9.11, or 0.1%, to 8,549.94.
The market has been on a tear since early October, and indexes have been on a nearly uninterrupted run as worries about a possible recession have faded. Solid economic data, better corporate earnings than analysts expected and interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve have all helped.
That leaves negotiations in the U.S.-China trade war as the remaining wild card for the market. President Trump had earlier hoped to have signatures on the first phase of a trade deal by now, at a major international summit that was scheduled for last weekend. But the president of the summit’s host nation, Chile, canceled the meeting last month amid nationwide protests.
The two sides are continuing to negotiate, with stock markets around the world swinging on every hint of progress or tension.
“Things are somewhat stable right now, which is really crazy when I think about the geopolitical issues going on abroad and in the U.S.,” said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial. “But we caution investors to have reasonable expectations for additional gains going forward: Hope for the best, but be mindful that we could see an uptick in volatility at any time.”
Some churn was on display Monday as energy stocks sank 1.3%. It was the largest loss by far among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500, and it tracked a sharp drop for oil and natural gas prices. ConocoPhillips fell 2.7%, and Chevron sank 1.7%.
Counterbalancing those losses were big gains for technology stocks, particularly chip makers. They bolted higher after the Commerce Department gave another 90-day extension for Chinese tech giant Huawei to continue doing business with U.S. companies. Nvidia jumped 4% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500, and Advanced Micro Devices was close behind with a 3.4% rise.
Other winners included stocks in areas of the market that tend to pay big dividends and hold up even when the economy is slowing. Real estate stocks and companies that make everyday goods for households both rose 0.5%, for example.
These kinds of stocks are known as “defensive” investments, and they had begun to lag the market in recent weeks as investors opted for companies whose profits can rise more quickly in a healthy economy. But a drop in Treasury yields Monday may have made the dividends paid by defensive stocks more attractive.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.81% from 1.83% late Friday.
Trading was quiet Monday as the market nears the end of corporate reporting season. More than 90% of companies in the S&P 500 already have said how much profit they made during the summer, and reports have mostly come in ahead of Wall Street’s expectations.
Still on deck are several big retailers. Home Depot will report results Tuesday. Target and Lowe’s will report results Wednesday. Macy’s and Gap will release their earnings Thursday.
Also coming up this week are the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting, where it decided to cut interest rates for a third time this year, and reports on manufacturing and consumer sentiment.
In the commodities markets, benchmark oil fell 67 cents to settle at $57.05 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 86 cents to close at $62.44 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.62 per gallon.
Gold rose $3.60 to $1,470.90 per ounce and silver rose 6 cents to $16.99 per ounce.
The dollar fell to 108.65 Japanese yen from 108.84 yen Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1076 from $1.1053.
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