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Flickering Trade Hopes and Tech Stock Losses Hit US Indexes

Flickering Trade Hopes and Tech Stock Losses Hit US Indexes

U.S. market indexes are mostly lower in wobbly trading Wednesday as weakness in technology companies cancels out gains in energy stocks and elsewhere in the market.

The market staged a brief rally around midday following a report that the U.S. was seeking new trade talks with China.

Chipmakers are falling, while Apple is moving lower as it announced updates to iPhones and Apple Watches. Energy companies are rising as U.S. crude oil reaches its highest price since July.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose a point to 2,889 at closing time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 28 points to 25,999. The Nasdaq composite slid 18 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,954 as technology companies declined.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,714.

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OIL: Oil prices built on Tuesday’s gains, and U.S. crude hit its highest price since mid-July. The Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude stockpiles fell by more than 5 million barrels last week.

Benchmark U.S. oil climbed 1.6 percent to $70.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, added 0.9 percent to $79.74 a barrel in London.

Energy companies also rose. Chevron climbed 1 percent to $116.20 and Schlumberger rose 1.3 percent to $61.11.

FLEETING TRADE HOPES: The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials recently proposed a new round of trade negotiations to give the Chinese government another chance to address U.S. concerns before it imposes bigger tariffs on goods imported from China.

Stocks climbed after that report, but they retreated to their earlier levels in less than an hour.

“Every other time this has happened, it wasn’t worth the positive market move,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist for Invesco. “Investors…are a lot more skeptical this time around, having been burned a few times with false optimism about positive trade developments.”

Many experts feel that China will make substantial concessions to resolve the trade impasse, possibly over the next few months. Hooper disagrees, saying China is preparing for a long dispute by ramping up government spending. She notes that unlike U.S. politicians, Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn’t have to worry about facing voters.

CHIPPED FINISH: Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Delaney downgraded Micron Technology stock to “Neutral” and said he expects weaker market conditions for several types of computer chips.

Micron fell 5 percent to $41.10 while Texas Instruments lost 2 percent to $103.91 and Nvidia slipped 2.4 percent to $266.26.

APPLE SPOTLIGHT: Apple unveiled new iPhones with larger screens on Wednesday, and also said new Apple Watches will have larger screens and new health-monitoring features.

Apple tends to trade lower on the days it announces new products, and it fell 1.5 percent to $220.54 Wednesday. It’s up 30 percent in 2018, however.

As the Apple Watch updates were announced, shares of fitness tracker company Fitbit slumped 6.1 percent to $5.58 in heavy trading.

ENERGY SURGE: Oil and gasoline prices jumped Tuesday as Hurricane Florence drew nearer to the East Coast and the U.S. government said it’s seeing signs that oil shipments from Iran are down. The U.S. is getting ready to put sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and has been pressing other countries to reduce their imports as well. That follows the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May.

Wholesale gasoline prices rose 1 percent to $2.03 a gallon. It jumped almost 3 percent the day before.

Heating oil added 0.3 percent to $2.26 a gallon and natural gas remained at $2.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.

FDA WARNING: Cigarette makers jumped after the Food and Drug Administration said it is looking at steps to combat “an epidemic” of e-cigarette use by teenagers, and said companies need to address the problem or risk having their flavored products pulled off the market.

Altria Group jumped 6.4 percent to $63.28 and Philip Morris International rose 3.3 percent to $80.

PRICES DOWN: The Labor Department said wholesale prices unexpectedly dipped in August, the first decline in a year and a half. That’s a sign inflation pressures could be easing. The agency’s producer prices index slipped 0.1 percent in August, although it’s up 2.8 percent over the last year.

The department said transportation and warehousing service prices fell for the month.

The dollar weakened and interest rates dipped, which put pressure on bank stocks. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.96 percent from 2.98 percent.

METALS: Gold rose 0.7 percent to $1,210.90 an ounce. Silver added 1 percent to $14.29 an ounce. Copper climbed 2.1 percent to $2.68 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 111.22 yen from 111.59 yen. The euro rose to $1.1632 from $1.1586.

OVERSEAS: France’s CAC 40 gained 0.9 percent while the British FTSE and the DAX in Germany both rose 0.5 percent.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.3 percent, and the Kospi in South Korea was almost flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 0.3 percent lower.

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