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U.S. Stocks Close Nearly Flat After Another Lackluster Session

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With traders seemingly reluctant to make any significant moves, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Thursday. The choppy trading on the day extended the lackluster performance seen throughout the past week.

The major averages eventually ended the day mixed, with the S&P 500 inching up 2.59 points or 0.1 percent to a new record closing high of 3,096.63. The Dow edged down 1.63 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 27,781.96 and the Nasdaq slipped 3.08 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 8,479.02.

Traders stuck to the sidelines as they expressed some concerns as U.S.-China trade talks drag on but remain wary of missing out on any further upside.

The markets have recently shown intense reactions to reports about the trade talks, and an upbeat report could send stocks surging to record highs once again.

With earnings season largely in the rearview mirror and the Federal Reserve signaling interest rates will remain on hold for the foreseeable future, traders are looking the next catalyst for the markets.

The long-awaited completion of a phase one U.S.-China trade deal could help drive the markets, although the talks could also still fall apart.

Traders may also start paying closer attention to the latest economic data, with reports on U.S. retail sales and industrial production likely to attract attention on Friday.

The Labor Department released a report this morning showing U.S. producer prices rebounded by slightly more than anticipated in the month of October.

The report said the producer price index for final demand climbed by 0.4 percent in October after falling by 0.3 percent in September. Economists had expected producer prices to rise by 0.3 percent.

Excluding food and energy prices, core producer prices rose by 0.3 percent in October following a 0.3 percent drop in September. Core prices had been expected to edge up by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, a separate Labor Department report showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits increased by much more than expected in the week ended November 9th.

The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 225,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 211,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 215,000.

Sector News

Reflecting the lackluster close by the broader markets, most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves.

Notable weakness was visible among energy stocks, however, with the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index and the Philadelphia Oil Service Index falling by 1 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

The weakness in the energy sector came amid a downturn by the price of crude oil, as crude for December delivery slid $0.35 to $56.77 a barrel after a report showed a bigger than expected weekly increase in crude oil inventories.

Networking stocks also moved lower as Cisco (CSCO) posted a steep loss after providing disappointing guidance, while gold stocks moved higher along with the price of the precious metal.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index slid by 0.8 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.8 percent, the German DAX Index dropped by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries extended the upward move seen over the two previous sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, slid 5.5 basis points to 1.815 percent.

Looking Ahead

Economic news may move back into the spotlight on Friday, with traders likely to keep an eye on the reports on retail sales and industrial production.

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