A mostly listless day on Wall Street ended Tuesday with stocks closing slightly lower as losses in industrial, technology and financial stocks outweighed gains elsewhere in the market.
Stocks wavered between small gains and losses through much of the day, with communications companies and retailers bucking the overall market decline. Mixed data on new U.S. home sales pulled homebuilders lower.
The stagnant trading came as investors looked ahead to a busy stretch of economic data releases later this week and the Federal Reserve’s next interest rate policy meeting in two weeks. Meanwhile, traders continued to wait for new details on the trade talks between the U.S. and China.
Stock prices already reflect the recent investor optimism that the world’s biggest economies are close to reaching a deal, noted Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
“We’ll know those details when they’re announced,” he said. “That’s part of what the market is digesting.”
The S&P 500 index dropped 3.16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,789.65. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.02 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,806.63. The Nasdaq composite slipped 1.21 points, or 0.02 percent, to 7,576.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 7.15 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,568.28.
Major indexes in Europe finished higher.
The U.S. and China have pulled back from an immediate escalation of their damaging trade war since they started negotiating last month. President Donald Trump postponed a deadline for raising tariffs on more Chinese goods, citing progress in a series of talks. Media reports on Monday suggested the nations could strike a deal this month.
The market has often jumped on hopes that progress was being made on the trade talks, only to fall back later as details didn’t come through.
“We’re going to need some additional news to move higher from here,” Northey said.
Absent news on trade, investors have been keeping an eye on retailers, many of which have been reporting quarterly results the past two weeks.
Target and Kohl’s led retailers higher Tuesday after the companies reported encouraging quarterly results and outlooks.
Many retailers had to grapple with an overall slowdown in sales at the end of last year on top of growing competition from Amazon and other e-commerce companies. Target noted strong online sales and traffic growth during the crucial holiday sales quarter, however. The stock climbed 4.6 percent. Kohl’s jumped 7.3 percent.
Homebuilders declined broadly after the Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes rose 3.7 percent in December, the highest pace in seven months. Even so, sales were down from a year earlier.
Meritage Homes slid 3.6 percent.
Industrial and technology stocks accounted for much of the market’s slide Tuesday, offsetting strength in other sectors. General Electric slumped 4.7 percent, while chipmaker Micron Technologies gave up 2.6 percent.
Hertz dropped 9.9 percent after activist investor Carl Icahn cut his holdings in the car rental company.
Papa John’s International rose 5 percent after reaching a settlement with founder John Schnatter that calls for him to step down from the board once an independent director replaces him.
The company has been floundering since Schnatter took a series of missteps, first blaming disappointing sales on sports player protests and then using a racial slur during a company conference call. He stepped down as CEO in 2017 and later resigned as chairman of the board.
U.S. crude slipped 0.1 percent to settle at $56.56 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 0.3 percent to close at $65.86 a barrel in London.
Bond prices held steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 2.72 percent.
The dollar fell to 111.89 yen from 111.94 yen on Monday. The euro weakened to $1.1303 from $1.1325.
Gold fell 0.2 percent to $1,284.70 an ounce. Silver was little changed at $15.14 an ounce. Copper rose 0.8 percent to $2.93 a pound.
In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline climbed 1.1 percent to $1.77 a gallon. Heating oil added 0.1 percent to $2.02 a gallon. Natural gas slid 0.9 percent to $2.88 per 1,000 cubic feet.