August 8, 2018 / 6:49 PM / 2 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500 essentially unchanged as oil prices, trade worries weigh

* Falling crude drags energy stocks down

* China responds in kind to proposed U.S. tariffs

* Disney down after posting disappointing results

* Tech shares give biggest boost to S&P and Nasdaq

* Indexes: Dow down 0.12 pct, S&P up 0.04 pct, Nasdaq up 0.11 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline to NEW YORK, changes byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Aug 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks struggled for direction on Wednesday as falling oil prices and trade anxieties battled with gains in technology and financial stocks.

The S&P 500 was basically flat a day after nearly reaching the record high set Jan. 26, following several days of gains.

China announced new 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of goods imported from the United States in the latest round of retaliatory actions in the escalating trade row between the world’s two largest economies.

Trade-sensitive industrial companies were the biggest drag on the Dow, which was down marginally. The decline was led Boeing and Caterpillar Inc.

Energy stocks were the heaviest drag on the S&P 500, falling 0.9 percent as crude prices dropped due to slowing Chinese demand and trade concerns.

Technology provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500, led by Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc.

Shares of Tesla Inc fell 1.2 percent as its board evaluated Elon Musk’s idea of taking the electric automaker private, a day after the CEO surprised the market by floating the idea on Twitter.

“I think there’s a lot of investors who like the idea of having private opportunities rather than public,” said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Wealth Management in Salem, Massachusetts. “It’s not the same kind of demanding, rigorous examination by the rest of the world. So I think that’s become very popular with entrepreneurs today.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 31.96 points, or 0.12 percent, to 25,596.95, the S&P 500 gained 1.18 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,859.63 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.50 points, or 0.11 percent, to 7,892.17.

Among the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, six were in negative territory.

Second-quarter earnings season has entered the home stretch, and of the 440 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported so far, 78.6 percent have beaten analyst expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Walt Disney Co was down 1.9 percent and was among biggest weights on the Dow after its quarterly profit missed estimates, and after a source reported that China has denied the company’s request to screen its film “Christopher Robin” in the country.

Among gainers, CVS Health Corp beat analyst estimates and announced it now expects its acquisition of Aetna to close in the latter half of 2018. The drugstore operator’s shares were up 4.2 percent.

Drugmaker Mylan NV recovered from earlier losses after it said it was actively evaluating a “wide range of alternatives” following a disappointing earnings report . The stock was last up 1.1 percent

Michael Kors Holdings Ltd was up 5.4 percent after beating analyst profit forecasts and raising its full-year forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.04-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.09-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 70 new highs and 72 new lows. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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