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US stock indexes cap listless trading day with mixed finish

By Alex Veiga 
AP Business Writer

A day of listless trading on Wall Street ended with an uneven finish for stock indexes as the market lost some of its momentum after a three-day winning streak.

After a brief early slide, U.S. stocks mostly wavered between small gains and losses through the rest of the day, as gains for some big technology companies were offset by losses in other sectors.

Consumer products companies took some of the heaviest losses, led by drugstore chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance, which plunged after it slashed its forecast following a weak quarter. Competitor CVS followed it lower.

The S&P 500 ended essentially flat, having eked out a sliver of a gain, which was still good enough to extend the benchmark index’s winning streak into a fourth day. Small-company stocks fell.

“You had some selling this morning, but it didn’t really materialize into much of anything,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “There will be plenty of market-moving things over the next few weeks.”

All told, the S&P 500 index edged up 0.05 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2,867.24.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79.29 points, or 0.3%, to 26,179.13. The Nasdaq composite index rose 19.78 points, or 0.3%, to 7,848.69. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 2.74 points, or 0.2%, to 1,553.32.

Major European stock indexes finished higher.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to 2.47% from 2.49% late Monday.

The day’s downbeat finish for stocks followed an overall strong stretch for the market.

The S&P 500 finished the January-March period with its biggest quarterly gain in nearly a decade. The index is now up 14.4% this year, and would now need to rise just 2.2% to regain the peak it reached September 20.

Investors are still not sure which direction to move as they weigh uncertainty over international trade issues and warnings over a weak first quarter for companies.

The unresolved trade dispute between the U.S. and China is still a key issue, said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“Nobody wants to buy with both hands, just in case,” he said. “But, people won’t aggressively sell everything as well, just in case.”

Traders are looking ahead to Wednesday, when trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are due to resume. Officials from the world’s two biggest economies are aiming to put to rest a dispute over technology and other issues.

Friday also brings potential market-moving news, when the government issues its tally of jobs added by U.S. employers last month. Economists project a gain of 170,000, according to FactSet.

“You have the start of the quarter and now you’re starting to go into wait-and-see mode until you get the jobs data on Friday,” Delwiche said.

Investors are also gearing up for a slew of corporate earnings this month, as the next big wave of company results kick into gear next week.

Wall Street expects a contraction in earnings during the first quarter, followed by slow growth for the remainder of 2019. Any company commentary about their prospects for the next few quarters will be important in giving analysts and investors a better picture of the economy.

Technology, communication and real estate sectors were among those to squeeze out gains Monday. Apple rose 1.5%, Facebook gained 3.3% and Boston Properties added 1.6%.

Walgreens led a slide in consumer products stocks after it reported a 14% drop in second-quarter profit, which the company’s CEO described as the most difficult quarter the nation’s largest drugstore has faced since forming a few years ago.

The company also slashed its forecast for 2019. Walgreens shares fell 12.8% and helped push down key competitor CVS Health by 3.8%.

Airline stocks rose after Delta Air Lines raised its profit forecast for the current quarter. Delta jumped 6%.

Other airlines also rose. United Continental picked up 2.3%, American Airlines Group added 2% and JetBlue Airways rose 1.2%.

Dow Inc., which makes plastics and other products for both consumer and industrial uses, climbed 5.1% in its first day of trading after being spun off from chemical maker DowDuPont.

Energy futures closed mostly higher. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 1.6% to settle at $62.58 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, closed 0.5% higher at $69.37 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline climbed 1.6% to $1.93 a gallon, heating oil picked up 1% to $2.01 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.9% to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold inched 0.1% higher to $1,295.40 an ounce, silver slipped 0.3% to $15.06 an ounce and copper dropped 0.6% to $2.91 a pound.

The dollar held steady at 111.37 yen, while the euro weakened to $1.1198 from $1.1211 on Monday.

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