U.S. Stocks Wobble Amid Conflicting Signals on Trade Talks

Date : 11/21/2019 @ 3:09PM
Source : Dow Jones News

U.S. Stocks Wobble Amid Conflicting Signals on Trade Talks

By Anna Isaac and Caitlin Ostroff 

U.S. stocks edged lower Thursday as investors assessed conflicting signals on the prospects for the U.S.-China trade talks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36 points, or 0.1%, to 27786 shortly after the opening bell and a day after the gauge logged its biggest fall of the month. The S&P 500 also slid 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite declined 0.1%.

China's chief trade negotiator late last week invited his American counterparts for a new round of face-to-face talks, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Chinese officials hope the negotiations can take place before the Thanksgiving holiday, but the U.S. side hasn't committed to a date.

That report came less than a day after President Trump criticized China's efforts to reach a trade agreement, escalating concerns that the world's two biggest economies won't reach a deal this year.

"The market really doesn't know what leg to stand on at this stage," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank. "We have this roller coaster, or hamster wheel, on trade."

While visiting Apple's Texas plant on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said China isn't stepping up to the level he wants for the two sides to reach a deal. That further dimmed hopes that had already been diminishing after Mr. Trump's threats in recent days to raise tariffs further. The two sides so far have struggled to reach an accord on specific commitments from China regarding the purchase of U.S. agricultural products and the White House paring back existing levies.

Even as hopes fade for a resolution in coming weeks to a trade war that has weighed on the global economic outlook, investors aren't likely to see any relief from a quick-paced easing in U.S. monetary policy. Federal Reserve officials said little about what would prompt them to resume interest-rate cuts when they signaled a pause following last month's rate reduction, according to minutes of the policy meeting released Wednesday.

"Markets have been climbing on hopes of a trade resolution and easier monetary policy," said Russ Mould, investment director at asset-management company AJBell. "Now the trade news was negative overnight from China, and the Fed minutes were disappointing insofar as they signaled a wait-and-see approach."

Adding to strains between the two nations, Beijing on Wednesday summoned the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in the capital to object to Washington's support for Hong Kong protesters after the House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday requiring the U.S. to re-examine its relationship with Hong Kong. That put formal American support for the pro-democracy protests in the hands of Mr. Trump.

Shares in Charles Schwab rose 9.5% after CNBC reported that the brokerage is in talks to buy TD Ameritrade Holding. TD Ameritrade climbed over 18.4%.

Shares in Tiffany rose more than 2.9% following a Reuters report that LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE has gained access to the jewelry retailer's books after it improved its offer to almost $130 per share, or nearly $16 billion.

Macy's fell 1.9% after the retailer reported a decline in third-quarter sales and warned of a weak holiday period as traditional department stores struggle to attract shoppers.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index ended the day down 1.6%, while the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 index retreated 0.3%, led by losses in sectors most exposed to the global economic impact of worsening trade tensions.

Later in the day, the National Association of Realtors will release figures on sales of existing homes, which will likely be parsed by investors for signs of a pick up in the muted housing market.

--Joanna Chiu contributed to this article.

Write to Anna Isaac at anna.isaac@wsj.com and Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2019 09:54 ET (14:54 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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