U.S. Stocks Edge Lower on Potential Delay to Trade Deal

Traders on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Stocks pulled back from record highs in early afternoon trading Wednesday following a report that a U.S.–China trade deal may not get signed until next month.

The potential delay reported by Reuters would mean cutting a deal closer to the Dec. 15 date when new tariffs are supposed to go into effect, right in the middle of the year-end shopping season.

Energy and technology stocks led the market lower. Exxon Mobil fell 2.1% and chipmaker Nvidia fell 1.6%.

Health care stocks held up better than most of the market. Drugstore operator CVS and kidney dialysis provider DaVita both made strong gains following solid earnings reports.

HP soared 12% following reports that Xerox was considering a takeover of the company.

Safe-play holdings, including utilities and real estate companies, also did better than most of the market. Bond yields fell in another sign that investors were taking a more defensive position.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.82% from 1.86% late Tuesday.

Investors have been focusing on solid corporate earnings and encouraging economic reports. The results have helped lessen worries about a potential recession, helping push major indexes to record highs in recent weeks.

The U.S.–China trade dispute has mostly remained in the background over the last month as both sides appeared to make progress in negotiations.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.2% as of 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 50 points, or 0.2%, to 27,442. The Nasdaq fell 0.6%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.7%.

ANALYST’S TAKE: Investors focused on the next potential market-moving piece of news out of the U.S.–China trade negotiations.

“Trade is a key issue but it’s difficult to gain an edge because no deal has been signed,” said Tom Hainlin, national investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “It’s proving to be challenging for investors.”

INSURANCE PAYOFF: CVS Health rose 4.9% after reporting surprisingly good third-quarter earnings with some help from its insurance unit. The drugstore chain and pharmacy benefit manager bought health insurance giant Aetna last year. CVS also raised its profit forecast for the year.

TECH TANGO: HP surged 11% following reports that the personal-computer and printer maker is being targeted by copier maker Xerox Holdings. The Wall Street Journal reported that Xerox is considering making a buyout offer. Xerox has been struggling as consumers increasingly use digital documents instead of paper.

OVERSEAS: European markets rose. Asian markets also rose, though The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.4%.

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