Stocks struggled to a mixed finish on Wall Street but with enough lift to set more record highs for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrials and more in Wednesday’s Stock Market Update.
Major indexes had been higher at midday Wednesday but took a stumble in the early afternoon following a report that trade talks with China had hit a snag.
Banks and industrial stocks did the worst. Safe-play sectors like utilities and makers of consumer products rose.
Wells Fargo fell 1.7% while Procter & Gamble rose 1.2%.
Disney Plus says it hit more than 10 million sign-ups on its first day of launch, far exceeding expectations. Disney (DIS) stock responded in kind, rising 7.2% and boosting the Dow.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the snag centers on a request by U.S. negotiators that China commit to making specific purchases of U.S. farm goods, among other demands.
The newspaper, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter, had earlier reported that Washington and Beijing are at odds over whether the U.S. will roll back tariffs or merely hold off on going through with a new batch of taxes on Chinese goods due to go into effect on Dec. 15.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that an agreement on the phase one deal announced last month “could happen soon,” but he warned that he was ready to raise tariffs “very substantially” if that fails.
The market has been sensitive to the twists and turns in the U.S.-China trade conflict. Investors’ expectations about a limited trade deal between the world’s two largest economies has helped drive gains for the stock market the past five weeks.
Companies that rely on consumer spending also fell. Amazon finished down 1.4% and General Motors (GM) slid 3.6%. The price of gold rose, another signal that traders were shifting money into traditional safe-haven assets.
Makers of household goods, utilities and real estate companies, sectors seen as less risky, led the gainers. Procter & Gamble rose 1.1%, Edison International gained 1.9% and American Tower was 1.7% higher.
STOCK MARKET UPDATE
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 rose 2 points, or 0.1%, to 3,094. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 92 points, or 0.3%, to 27,783. The Nasdaq down 3 points, less than 0.1%, to 8,482.
Small-company stocks lagged the broader market, sending the Russell 2000 index 0.3% lower.
More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Stock indexes in Europe finished broadly lower.
POWELL SPEAKS: In a written statement to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, Powell said Wednesday that the central bank is unlikely to cut rates unless the economy slows enough to cause Fed policymakers to make a “material reassessment” of their outlook.
The Fed cut short-term rates last month for the third time this year, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, in a bid to shield the economy from slower global growth and the U.S.-China trade war.
“Most people going in pretty much assumed that the Fed is now on hold,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. “Investors were encouraged that Chairman Powell did not say anything totally out of what was expected.”
Recent data suggest that U.S. economic growth remains solid, if not spectacular. The economy expanded at a 1.9% annual rate in the July-September quarter, down from 3.1% in the first three months of the year. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low of 3.6% and hiring is strong enough to potentially push the rate even lower.
YIELDS: Treasury yields continued to fall as demand for bonds increased, driving their prices higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.88% from 1.91% late Friday. It was below 1.50% in early September and has been rallying with confidence in the economy’s strength.
MILESTONES APLENTY: The major U.S. stock indexes were within striking distance of more milestones.
The benchmark S&P 500, which has notched weekly highs the past five weeks, has hit new highs 19 times this year, matching 2018’s milestones. The index was within 0.1% of its record high, set Friday.
The Nasdaq, meanwhile, was hovering just 0.2 below the all-time high it set Tuesday.
The Dow, which ended Tuesday unchanged from its record high set the previous day, was holding on to a tiny gain that had it on track for a new milestone Wednesday.
FEELING SECURE: Home and business security company ADT (ADT) climbed 8.1% after its latest quarterly results topped Wall Street’s expectations. The company also announced a special dividend.
ANALYZE THIS: Datadog (DDOG) vaulted 16.8% after the data analytics and cloud monitoring company reported strong third-quarter earnings and gave investors an encouraging forecast.
QUITE A JOLT: Shares in Energizer Holdings (ENR) jumped 15.1% after the battery and personal care products maker’s latest quarterly results handily beat Wall Street’s forecasts.
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