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Stocks Climb Off Worst Levels But Still Close Modestly Lower - U.S. Commentary

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After coming under pressure early in the session, stocks regained ground over the course of the trading day on Wednesday. The major averages climbed well off their worst levels of the day but still closed in negative territory.

The major averages posted modest losses on the day, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closing lower for the first time in 2018. The Dow dipped 16.67 points or 0.1 percent to 25,369.13, the Nasdaq edged down 10.01 points or 0.1 percent to 7,153.57 and the S&P 500 slipped 3.06 points or 0.1 percent to 2,748.23.

Profit taking contributed to the early weakness on Wall Street after the major averages once again climbed to new record closing highs in the previous session.

A report from Bloomberg News indicating Chinese officials have recommended slowing or halting purchases of U.S. Treasuries also weighed on the markets.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg the officials believe the market for U.S. government bonds is becoming less attractive relative to other assets.

The officials also think trade tensions between the U.S. and China may provide a reason to slow or stop buying American debt, the people said.

Selling pressure waned over the course of the session, however, as traders may have been concerned about missing out on any further upside.

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing import prices rose by much less than expected in the month of December.

The Labor Department said import prices inched up by 0.1 percent in December after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.8 percent in November.

Economists had expected import prices to rise by 0.5 percent compared to the 0.7 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

The report also showed an unexpected decrease in export prices, which edged down by 0.1 percent in December after rising by 0.5 percent in November. Export prices had expected to rise by 0.3 percent.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed wholesale inventories increased by slightly more than anticipated in the month of November.

Sector News

Natural gas stocks showed a significant move to the downside over the course of the trading session, dragging the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index down by 1.4 percent.

The weakness among natural gas stocks came amid a decrease by the price of the commodity, with natural gas for February delivery falling $0.017 to $2.906 per million BTUs.

Considerable weakness was also visible among electronic storage stocks, as reflected by the 1.3 percent drop by the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index. The index pulled back further off the more than two-year closing high it set on Monday.

Semiconductor, railroad, housing, and commercial real estate stocks also saw notable weakness, contributing to the modestly lower close by the broader markets.

On the other hand, airline stocks moved substantially higher, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index climbing by 1.7 percent. The gain by the index came after it close lower for five consecutive sessions.

United Continental (UAL) led the sector higher after the airline reported increases in revenue passenger miles and available seat miles in December.

Gold and banking stocks also moved to the upside on the day, helping to offset the weakness seen in the aforementioned sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dipped by 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, European stocks moved mostly lower on the day. The German DAX Index slid by 0.8 percent and the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 0.4 percent. However, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index bucked the downtrend and inched up by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries recovered from an early move to the downside before closing roughly flat. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, inched up by less than a basis point to 2.550 percent.

Looking Ahead

Trading on Thursday may be impacted by reaction to economic reports on weekly jobless claims and producer price inflation.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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