Stocks - Wall Street Gives up Early Gains on Trade Fight Worries

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Stocks - Wall Street Gives up Early Gains on Trade Fight Worries
Credit: © Reuters.

Investing.com - A strong opening stock rally Thursday faded in the afternoon in part because of worries about the upcoming U.S.-China trade talks.

The concern was prompted when Michael Pillsbury, a prominent adviser to President Donald Trump, told the South China Morning Post that Trump would raise tariffs substantially on Chinese imports unless a trade agreement can be quickly negotiated.

Formal talks between the United States and China are supposed to resume in October.

The S&P 500 finished flat on the day. It had been up as much as 0.5%. The Dow Jones industrials were down 0.2% after rising as many as 125 points. The Nasdaq Composite ended up 0.7%; the index had been up as much as 0.7%.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ), Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) all pulled the Dow lower. Apple and Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ: COST ) were among the big reasons for the swoon in the Nasdaq, as well as the Nasdaq 100 .

Boeing's decline may have been prompted by Ryanair Holdings (NASDAQ: RYAAY ) CEO Michael O'Leary's projection the airline won't resume flying the 737 Max until late February or early March.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) hit a 52-week high before falling back. The software giant announced late Wednesday it was boosting its dividend by 11% and planning to buy back up to $40 billion of its shares. Microsoft's market capitalization stood at $1.085 trillion, ahead of Apple's $1 trillion market cap.

Also weighing on stocks was uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve will cut rates again in 2019. The Fed cut its key federal funds rate to 1.75% to 2% on Wednesday to protect the 10-year-old economic expansion from trade stresses and economic slowing in Europe, China and elsewhere.

Investing.com's Fed Rate Monitor Tool suggests a 55% chance the Fed will do nothing in October, but will likely cut rates again at its December meeting.

Perhaps as a result, interest rates were little changed Thursday. The 10-Year Treasury yield moved to 1.789% from Wednesday's 1.784%.

And stocks that often benefit from low rates did well, including home builder PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM ), Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV ) and paint company Sherwin-Williams (NYSE: SHW ).

Oil prices moved higher. West Texas Intermediate Crude was up 15 cents to $58.19 a barrel. Brent crude was up 89 cents to $64.40.

Gold futures dropped back slightly to $1,506.20 an ounce in New York.

Healthcare, utilities and real estate were the strongest sectors of the market. The weakest were industrials, financials and consumer discretionaries. US Steel fell 11% after issuing a profit warning, especially over business in Europe.

FedEx (NYSE: FDX ), crushed Wednesday, rebounded to a 1% gain.

Insurance giant Cigna (NYSE: CI ), Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY ) Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN ) and medical-device maker Align Technology (NASDAQ: ALGN ) were among the top S&P 500 performers.

Hard-drive maker Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX ), Olive Garden-parent Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI ), Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL ) and department store giant Macy’s (NYSE: M ) were among the weakest S&P performers.

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