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Wednesday November 20th, 2019 2:40AM

US stocks edge higher as investors wait for trade updates

By The Associated Press
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Major U.S. stock indexes edged mostly higher in afternoon trading Thursday as investors await signs of progress in trade negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico.

The muted trading followed 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 the Trump administration's disputes with China and Mexico threatened the U.S. economic expansion.

U.S. and Mexican officials held a second day of trade talks Thursday. Both sides have claimed progress, but President Donald Trump insists that a "lot of progress" must be made if he's to halt the 5% import tax set to go into effect June 10.

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

Gains in health care, technology and consumer staples stocks were driving much of the market's gains. CVS Health climbed 2.2%, Advanced Micro Devices jumped 6.9% and Campbell Soup rose 2.9%.

Energy stocks recouped some ground following a broad sell-off a day earlier. Occidental Petroleum rose 3% and Chevron added 2.1%.

Real estate and industrial stocks fell. Macerich slid 2% and Kansas City Southern dropped 2.1%; the railroad company gets nearly half its revenue from Mexico.

A smattering of company 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 was up 0.2% as of 1:26 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 81 points, or 0.3%, to 25,621. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1% and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies dropped 0.8%.

Stock indexes in Europe were mixed.

GOLD RUSH: The price of gold continued marching higher as investors seek safer investments amid the trade disputes.

Gold ticked 0.7% 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 11.3% 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 13.7% 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 24% after the developer of high-speed networking technology beat Wall Street's fiscal second quarter financial forecasts.

Ciena's profit and revenue beat forecasts for growth from its networking platforms and in North America.

  • 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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