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Friday February 28th, 2020 3:55AM

Major US stock indexes veer broadly higher in choppy trading

By The Associated Press
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Stocks veered modestly higher on Wall Street Monday afternoon following a choppy day of trading that had the market on track to recoup some of its losses from last week.

Communication services stocks, technology companies and banks drove much of the gains, offsetting losses in consumer product makers and utilities. Bond yields rose.

The market is coming off a three-week skid following a mixed batch of economic data that stoked investors' worries that a slowdown in U.S. economic growth could worsen. Last week, the S&P 500 posted its first back-to-back losses of 1% this year as surprisingly weak numbers in surveys of manufacturing and service industries raised worries that the economy could slip into a recession.

The costly and long-running trade war between the U.S. and China remains a key source of uncertainty for markets, which have been volatile in response to the ups and downs in the conflict.

Washington and Beijing are preparing for a new round of trade talks this week. Envoys from both nations are meeting in their latest bid to put an end to the dispute that is stunting global economic growth and spooking the stock market.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.2% as of 1:56 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 72 points, or 0.3%, to 26,646. The Nasdaq gained 0.3% and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 0.4%.

Major stock indexes in Europe were broadly higher. Stocks in Asia ended mixed. Chinese markets are due to reopen on Tuesday after a weeklong break.

Bond prices fell, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.55% from 1.51% late Friday.

MARKET NERVES: The market is coming off three straight weekly losses. Investors digested a series of mostly disappointing economic reports last week that showed the U.S.-China trade war is hurting manufacturing and threatening U.S. economic growth. Some of those fears were allayed on Friday when a government jobs report showed that employers are still adding jobs at a healthy clip and that the national unemployment rate dropped to a five-decade low.

Still, last week marked the third weekly loss in a row for the broader market as the trade war takes its toll on confidence.

SECTORS AND MOVERS: Discovery led the gains in the communication services sector. The stock rose 2.1%.

Apple and chipmaker Nvidia helped lift technology stocks. The iPhone maker was up 1.1%, while Nvidia added 2.1%.

Big banks got a boost from rising bond yields, which allow lenders to charge higher interest rates on consumer loans. JPMorgan gained 0.6%, while Bank of America and Citigroup rose 0.7%.

Consumer product makers and utilities lagged the rest of the market. The sectors are considered safe-play investments that investors favor when they want to reduce risk and stocks to sell off when they have more confidence.

Beverage companies led the broad slide in consumer product makers. PepsiCo dropped 0.8% and Coca-Cola fell 0.7%. Among utilities companies, Edison International slid 0.9%.

ENGINE PROBLEMS: General Motors has lost nearly 10% of its value since contract negotiations with the now striking United Auto Workers started to falter. The situation has taken another bad turn as negotiations hit a snag over product commitments for U.S. factories.

Workers were warned by United Auto Workers vice president Terry Dittes on September 6 that bargaining was moving slowly. Workers moved to picket lines on September 16, crippling the company's factories and accelerating stock losses.

Despite the labor issues, General Motor's stock is still up 4.8% for the year, though that is far behind competitor Ford's 13.8% annual gain.

FULL PLATE: Fox rose 0.8% after the company settled a dispute with Dish Network over carriage of Fox's local TV stations and cable sports networks. Dish pulled the broadcast network from 17 markets in September.

SLICK MOVE: ConocoPhillips climbed 3.1% after the energy company raised its quarterly dividend by 38% and will buy back $3 billion of its stock in 2020.

___

AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
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