Stocks post small losses amid U.S.-China trade anxiety

A street sign in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Stocks closed slightly lower on Wall Street on Thursday after a mostly listless day of trading handed the market its third straight drop.

Losses in technology stocks, companies that rely on consumer spending and other sectors outweighed gains elsewhere in the market. Energy sector stocks were the biggest winners, benefiting from another pickup in crude oil prices. Healthcare and communication services companies also rose.

The S&P 500 index dropped 4.92 points, or 0.2%, to 3,103.54. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 54.80 points, or 0.2%, to 27,766.29. The Nasdaq slid 20.52 points, or 0.2%, to 8,506.21.

Investors have turned cautious this week amid concerns that the U.S. and China will fail to make a trade deal before the year is over.


The world’s largest economies have been negotiating a resolution to their trade war ahead of new tariffs set to hit key consumer goods on Dec. 15. Investors have been hoping for a deal before that happens, as the tariffs would increase prices on smartphones, laptops and many common household goods.

“That Dec. 15 deadline on tariffs still weighs on the market,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. “The market needs a sense that there won’t be an escalation in the trade war.”

The latest round of selling extended the losses for U.S. stocks this week. The benchmark S&P 500 index is on track to snap a six-week winning streak.

Stocks are likely to remain choppy and risky as long as the trade war and threat of new tariffs looms over Wall Street, said Barry Bannister, head of institutional equity strategy at Stifel.


“We don’t want to see tariffs on consumer goods that get passed on directly to retail purchasers because they’re the last leg on which the economy is standing right now,” Bannister said.

Technology stocks took some of the heaviest losses Thursday. Many chipmakers and companies that make hardware rely on China for sales and supply chains. Advanced Micro Devices slid 3.6% and Lam Research fell 3.7%.

Consumer product makers also fell broadly. Kraft Heinz dropped 2.7%.

Exxon Mobil rose 2.4%, part of a broad rally in energy stocks as the price of U.S. crude oil climbed 2.8%. Benchmark crude oil rose $1.57 to settle at $58.58 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained $1.57 to close at $63.97 a barrel.


Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.78% from 1.74% late Wednesday.

Traders welcomed a batch of deal-related news. Tiffany jumped 2.6% following a report that LVMH would raise its bid for the company. TD Ameritrade soared 16.9% after a report that Charles Schwab was in talks to acquire it.

PayPal slipped 1.5% after saying it would buy Honey Science, which helps people find coupons and discounts while they shop online.

Retailers continued to report a mixed batch of earnings. Macy’s fell 2.3% after cutting its profit and sales forecast. Investors rewarded Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands with a 10.1% gain after the company met Wall Street’s profit expectations.


Several other well-known retailers will report earnings later Thursday, including Nordstrom and Gap.

Gold fell $10.20 to $1,463.10 per ounce and silver fell 5 cents to $17.05 per ounce.

The dollar rose to 108.66 Japanese yen from 108.64 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1059 from $1.1070.