August 23, 2018 / 2:22 PM / 2 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P edges up as tech stocks gain; Jackson Hole in focus

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* Industrials hit by fresh U.S.-China tariffs

* Commodity prices fall, weighing on energy, material stocks

* All eyes on Powell speech at Jackson Hole on Friday

* Hormel Foods, Sanderson Farms drop as tariffs hit results

* Indexes: Dow flat, S&P up 0.10 pct, Nasdaq up 0.36 pct (Updates top open)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Aug 23 (Reuters) - The benchmark S&P 500 edged higher on Thursday as technology stocks rose, though gains were restricted by declines in commodity-related stocks and trade-sensitive sectors after new tariffs took effect in the U.S.-China trade war.

In their latest back-and-forth, the United States and China imposed fresh tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other’s goods, despite ongoing trade talks between the countries.

The trade-sensitive S&P industrials sector dipped 0.16 percent, weighing on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The technology index rose 0.64 percent, bolstering the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite.

The energy index fell 0.68 percent and the materials index dropped 0.61 percent as prices of crude oil and metals declined with the escalation in Sino-U.S. trade dispute and the dollar strengthened on expectations of higher U.S. interest rates soon.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole central bankers’ symposium on Friday will be keenly watched for clues on future rate hikes.

“The main thing on our radar right now is the two-day Jackson Hole symposium and investors are waiting on Powell’s speech to figure out what kind of hike path the Fed is on,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

“Political headlines in the past few days have had very little impact on people’s thoughts around the markets.”

Financial stocks were down 0.25 percent, as the two-day Jackson Hole meet kicks off on Thursday.

At 9:57 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 11.11 points, or 0.04 percent, at 25,722.49, the S&P 500 was up 2.75 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,864.57 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 28.18 points, or 0.36 percent, at 7,917.27.

Data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign the labor market was holding firm despite trade tensions that have spawned restrictions on global commerce.

But U.S. meat producers have said increase in Chinese tariffs on beef and pork have led to domestic oversupply and forced price cuts for competing meat such as chicken.

Shares of Hormel Foods fell 2.8 percent and Sanderson Farms dropped 1.3 percent after the packaged food makers posted disappointing results, laying the blame partly on China tariffs.

Victoria’s Secret-owner L Brands dropped 9 percent, the most on the S&P, after cutting its full-year profit expectations.

Synopsys gained 6.7 percent, the most on the S&P, after the electronic products and software maker beat quarterly estimates for revenue and profit.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.60-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 14 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 85 new highs and 7 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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