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Thursday October 17th, 2019 11:47AM

Stocks seek direction as investors wait for trade updates

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks swayed between small gains and losses in late morning trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors closely watched for any developments in U.S. trade disputes.

The muted trading follows two days of gains driven by investors betting that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates this year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the central bank would "act as appropriate" if trade disputes with China and Mexico threatened the U.S. economic expansion.

U.S. and Mexican officials headed into a second day of trade talks Thursday. Both sides have claimed progress, but President Donald Trump said earlier that a "lot of progress" must be made to halt the initial 5% import taxes set to go into effect June 10.

The trade disputes threaten to stifle economic growth in the U.S. and globally. Investors have been mostly fleeing to safer investments, like bonds and gold, because of the uncertainty surrounding negotiations.

Energy, health care and technology stocks led the gainers. Johnson & Johnson rose 1.8% and Broadcom rose 1.6%.

Energy stocks recouped some ground from a broad sell-off a day earlier. Exxon rose 1.5% and Chevron rose 1.5%.

Consumer staples were also rose, with cigarette makers posting gains. Altria rose 1.8% and Philip Morris rose 1.2%.

Industrial stocks were the biggest decliners. FedEx fell 1.3%. Kansas City Southern slipped 1.7%; the railroad company gets nearly half its revenue from Mexico.

A smattering of earnings results brought on either severe punishment or lavish rewards from investors. Technology company Ciena and personal stylist company Stitch Fix surged on solid results. Arts and crafts retailer Michaels and home decor company At Home Group plunged on weak reports.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.3% as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 96 points, or 0.4%, to 25,635. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1%.

GOLD RUSH: The price of gold continued marching higher as investors stash money into seemingly safe investments as trade disputes threaten economic growth.

Gold ticked 0.5% higher and is up nearly 5% since May 21. Meanwhile, the broader stock market slumped in May, with the S&P 500 recording its first monthly loss of the year.

CRUDE CRAFTS: Arts and crafts retailer Michaels plunged 12.6% after sales at established stores fell more sharply than Wall Street had forecast. The company also trimmed its full year profit forecast.

Michaels said the surprisingly sharp drop in the key sales measure was due to a decrease in transactions, even though there was an increase in the average amount purchased by individual customers.

LOOKING GOOD: Stitch Fix shares surged 17.3% after the online clothing styling service surprised investors with a fiscal third quarter profit.

Revenue surged and also beat analysts' forecasts as the company notched a 17% increase in active clients. The company works by taking a client's style profile, which is then used by a personal stylist to handpick clothing items and accessories. The client then receives a box of items to try on and either keep or return.

STRONG CONNECTION: Ciena shares jumped 25.4% after the developer of high-speed networking technology beat Wall Street's fiscal second quarter financial forecasts.

Both profit and revenue beat forecasts on growth from the networking platforms and in North America.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
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Stocks seek direction as investors wait for trade updates
U.S. stocks wobbled between gains and losses as investors watched for developments in U.S. trade disputes
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