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Stocks rise modestly as Fed leaves interest rates unchanged

Christmas tree at the New York Stock Exchange
Christmas decorations adorn the facade of the New York Stock Exchange in December 2017.
(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

Stocks on Wall Street ended a wobbly Wednesday with modest gains, snapping a two-day losing streak for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

The market shook off a mixed start after the Federal Reserve announced it would be leaving interest rates unchanged this month and signaled that it expects to leave them alone in 2020.

Investor jitters over whether the United States and China will be able to avert a new escalation in their trade war has made for choppy trading this week, pulling major indexes down.

A new round of U.S. tariffs is scheduled to kick in Sunday on Chinese goods that include phones, laptops and other popular products. Wall Street is hoping the two nations reach an agreement to avert that.

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“We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. “The market is kind of sitting on its hands right now.”

The S&P 500 index rose 9.11 points, or 0.3%, to 3,141.63. The benchmark index is still on track for a slight weekly loss.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a gain of 29.58 points, or 0.1%, at 27,911.30. The Nasdaq rose 37.87 points, or 0.4%, to 8,654.05.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks edged up 0.21 of a point, or less than 0.1%, to 1,631.93.

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The major indexes are still on track for strong gains this year. The Nasdaq is leading the way, with a gain of 30.4%. The S&P 500 is up 25.3% and the Dow is up nearly 20%.

Technology and industrial stocks led the gains Wednesday. Skyworks Solutions climbed 4.7%. United Rentals rose 2.1%.

Banks and real estate companies lagged behind the overall market. U.S. Bancorp slid 1.2%. Mall owner Simon Property Group lost 2.4%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.79% from 1.83%.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet surged 15% after reporting surprisingly good third-quarter profit and revenue.

GameStop plunged 15.1% after issuing a surprising loss and cutting its profit forecast.

Home Depot dropped 1.8% after issuing a weak sales forecast.

American Eagle Outfitters slumped 6.5% after the clothing chain reported third-quarter results that were largely in line with Wall Street’s expectations but said it saw softer demand for certain apparel categories.

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Chevron fell 1.4% after the energy company warned investors about a potential charge of as much as $11 billion because of lower long-term prices for oil and natural gas. The huge fourth-quarter write-down underscores the challenge posed by rising production that has prevented energy prices from increasing sharply during a time of increasing global demand.

Benchmark crude oil fell 48 cents to settle at $58.76 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped 62 cents to close at $63.72 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 4 cents to $1.93 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.24 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $6.80 to $1,469.40 an ounce. Silver rose 14 cents to $16.74 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.78 a pound.


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