May 8, 2019 / 4:09 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Wall St struggles for direction as crucial trade talks loom

* White House says China wants to make a trade deal

* U.S. to hike tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday

* Electronic Arts gains after Q4 revenue beat

* Dow up 0.08%, S&P and Nasdaq flat (Changes comment, updates prices)

By Amy Caren Daniel

May 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks flitted between gains and losses on Wednesday, as investors digested a mixed flow of news on trade, ahead of a critical round of talks between the United States and China.

China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, is due to visit Washington on Thursday and Friday in a last-ditch effort to strike a deal, even as the United States announced it will raise tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on Friday.

In response to the potential additional tariffs, China’s commerce ministry said it would have to take necessary retaliatory measures.

“There has been a bipolar flow of information on trade,” said Eric Wiegand, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in New York.

“Today’s move reflects the inconclusive nature of what we are dealing with. It’s hard for investors to really position themselves after you are just hearing rhetoric and not seeing formal policies put in place.”

The spike in tensions between the world’s two largest economies renewed fears of a global economic slowdown and has resulted in the benchmark S&P 500 moving more than 2% away from its record high of 2,954.13 hit last week.

A bright spot in markets was a 1% gain in shares of iPhone maker Apple Inc and Walt Disney Co, which is due to report results after the bell.

At 11:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 20.07 points, or 0.08%, at 25,985.16. The S&P 500 was down 0.48 points, or 0.02%, at 2,883.57 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.89 points, or 0.01%, at 7,962.87.

With results entering the final stretch, first-quarter earnings are now seen rising 1.2%, a sharp improvement from the 2.3% decline expected at the start of the season.

Of the 426 S&P companies that have reported so far, about 75% have beaten profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Electronic Arts Inc rose 1.2% after the videogame maker posted better-than-expected quarterly revenue, riding on the popularity of its battle royale game, “Apex Legends”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.11-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded three new 52-week highs and six new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and 46 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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