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U.S. Stocks Little Changed As Traders Stick To The Sidelines

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Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Wednesday, extending the lackluster performance seen in the previous session. The major averages have spent the morning bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are turning in a mixed performance. While the S&P 500 is up 0.20 points or less than 0.1 percent at 3,074.82, the Dow is down 2.46 points or less than 0.1 percent at 27,490.17 and the Nasdaq is down 27.18 points or 0.3 percent at 8,407.50.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders seem reluctant to make significant moves amid some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets after the recent run to record highs.

Optimism about a potential U.S.-China trade deal contributed to the strength on Wall Street, but traders now seem to be looking for more concrete developments.

U.S. and Chinese officials have continued to tout progress in the ongoing trade talks, building anticipation for phase one of an agreement to be signed sometime this month.

However, traders may start to get antsy the longer negotiations drag on without an announcement of new plans for a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On the U.S. economic front, preliminary data released by the Labor Department showed labor productivity in the U.S. unexpectedly edged lower in the third quarter.

The report said labor productivity dipped by 0.3 percent in the third quarter after spiking by an upwardly revised 2.5 percent in the second quarter.

The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected productivity to climb by 0.9 percent compared to the 2.3 percent jump originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said unit labor costs soared by 3.6 percent in the third quarter after surging up by a downwardly revised 2.4 percent in the second quarter.

Economists had expected unit labor costs to jump by 2.2 percent compared to the 2.6 percent spike originally reported for the previous month.

Reflecting the lackluster performance by the broader markets, most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves to the downside in morning trading.

Profit taking is contributing to considerable weakness among semiconductor stocks, however, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index tumbling by 1.5 percent after ending the previous session at a record closing high.

Energy stocks have also come under pressure as the price of crude oil has pulled back sharply following the release of a report showing a much bigger than expected weekly increase in crude oil inventories.

On the other hand, gold stocks have shown a strong move to the upside, benefiting from a rebound by the price of the precious metal.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.2 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved modestly higher on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has risen by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 0.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are regaining ground after moving sharply lower over the three previous sessions. Subsequently the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 3.2 basis points at 1.834 percent.

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