Stocks Edge Higher as Investors Watch for Trade News

(AP) —
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Technology companies and retailers led stocks modestly higher on Wall Street Tuesday, adding to the market’s solid start to the week.

The latest gains follow a record-setting day for the major indexes, fueled by hopes that the U.S. and China are making progress toward ending their trade war.

Beijing said that negotiators for both sides met early Tuesday and agreed to more talks aimed at reaching a deal. The latest bit of information comes a day after China announced new guidelines for the protection of patents and copyrights, which has been a key issue in the dispute.

New U.S. tariffs are set to hit on Dec. 15 on many Chinese-made items on seasonal shopping checklists, such as smartphones and laptops. Investors are hoping that the latest round of talks between the world’s two largest economies will yield a deal that halts their trade dispute, or at least stops it from escalating.

Gains in Microsoft and Intuit helped lift technology stocks Tuesday. Microsoft rose 0.5% and Intuit climbed 3.3%. The technology sector is on track for a 41.7% gain this year.

Retailers made some of the more significant gains, including Best Buy, after reporting solid earnings. Industrial stocks and makers of household goods also rose.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.74% from 1.76% late Monday.

The lower yields weighed on banks, which use them to set interest rates on mortgages and other loans. Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all fell.

Traders also were weighing new data on the U.S. consumer. The Conference Board said its closely watched consumer confidence index fell slightly for the fourth consecutive month to 125.5. Still, the reading remains elevated ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Investors will have several other economic reports to assess on Wednesday, including home sales data, a key measure of inflation and the government’s latest quarterly estimate of economic growth.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was up 0.1% as of 1:53 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19 points, or 0.1%, to 28,085. The Nasdaq added 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained 0.3%.

Major stock indexes in Europe were mostly higher.

ANALYST’S TAKE: Investors have grown more hopeful over trade negotiations as the world’s two largest economies continue to keep their rhetoric in check. That’s a clear difference from earlier this year, when a sharp comment from either side would seemingly silence any ongoing talks and worsen relations.

“Generally, you can kind of look at the commentary coming out and I’d say it leans in the direction of progress being made, albeit at a fairly slow pace,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede Trust.

MIXED SHOPPING BAG: Retailers are closing out the latest round of corporate earnings with varied results. Consumer electronics seller Best Buy jumped 12.4% after handily beating Wall Street’s profit expectations for the quarter, while giving a surprisingly good profit forecast.

Dicks Sporting Goods surged 18.6% after blowing away analysts’ profit forecasts for the third quarter. Discount retailer Dollar Tree plunged 17.5% after its profit fell short of Wall Street expectations. Clothing chain operator Abercrombie & Fitch slid 2.6% after the company lowered the top end of its revenue guidance.

FASHION FORWARD: Burlington Stores vaulted 9.8% after the discount retailer of coats, jackets and other clothing reported quarterly results that topped analysts’ forecasts. The company also raised its earnings guidance.

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