U.S. Stocks End Choppy Day Slightly Lower Amid Trade Jitters

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stock indexes closed slightly lower Thursday after a day of mostly choppy trading, wiping out some of the market’s gains from a day earlier.

Technology stocks took some of the worst losses. Fast-food chains and other consumer-focused companies, utilities and banks also declined, outweighing gains in energy and industrial stocks. Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market.

The indexes veered solidly into the red by late afternoon ahead of a new round of U.S.-China trade talks. The countries have threatened tariffs on each other.

The S&P 500 index slipped 2.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,720.13. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 54.95 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,713.98. The drop pulled the Dow into the red for the year. The Nasdaq composite fell 15.82 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,382.47.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks bucked the downward trend, setting an all-time high for the second day in a row. The index picked up 8.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,625.29.

Small-cap companies tend to be more focused on business in the U.S., rather than overseas, which may make them more attractive to investors worried about a trade war or rising interest rates.

The latest quarterly results and outlooks from several companies also put investors in a selling mood.

J.C. Penney sank 12.4 percent to $2.69 after the struggling department store chain said it might take a loss in 2018 as it cut its annual forecast. Jack in the Box lost 8.3 percent to $83.79 after the burger chain’s earnings fell short of analysts’ expectations.

Cisco Systems led a slide in technology stocks after its latest quarterly results disappointed traders. The stock slid 3.8 percent to $43.46.

Dillard’s bucked the trend with earnings that exceeded Wall Street’s estimates. The department store chain climbed 6.3 percent to $76.53.

CBS slid 4.1 percent to $51.61 after a Delaware judge refused Thursday to grant the company a restraining order against its majority shareholder.

An early rally in crude oil faded by late afternoon. Benchmark U.S. crude oil ended flat at $71.49 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, rose 2 cents to close at $79.30 a barrel in London.

Energy stocks notched solid gains. Valero Energy gained 4.1 percent to $119.71.

Williams Partners jumped 8 percent to $41.49 after it agreed to be acquired by oil pipeline company Williams Cos. in an all-stock deal they valued at $10.5 billion.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.11 percent from 3.10 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar rose to 110.75 yen from 110.25 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1799 from $1.1802.

Gold fell $2.10 to $1,289.40 an ounce. Silver added 11 cents to $16.48 an ounce. Copper gained 2 cents to $3.09 a pound.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil rose a penny to $2.28 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell a penny to $2.24 a gallon. Natural gas gained 4 cents to $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.