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U.S. Stocks Close Modestly Lower But Off Worst Levels

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After moving to the downside early in the session, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Thursday but largely maintained a negative bias. The major averages eventually ended the day modestly lower, adding to the losses posted in the previous session.

The major averages finished the session in negative territory but off their worst levels of the day. The Dow slipped 54.80 points or 0.2 percent to 27,766.29, the Nasdaq dipped 20.52 points or 0.2 percent to 8,506.21 and the S&P 500 edged down 4.92 points or 0.2 percent to 3,103.54.

The continued weakness on Wall Street partly reflected renewed uncertainty about the U.S. and China finalizing a phase one trade deal.

On Wednesday, a report from Reuters said completion of a phase one U.S.-China trade deal could slide into next year.

Trade experts and people briefed on the talks told Reuters a deal is still elusive and negotiations may be getting more complicated.

Reuters said the delay in signing the deal comes as China presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks, and the Trump administration counters with heightened demands of its own.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he has not made a trade deal with China yet because Beijing is not "stepping up to the level that I want."

Meanwhile, a report from the Wall Street Journal said China's chief trade negotiator has invited his American counterparts to Beijing for a new round of face-to-face talks.

Citing people briefed on the matter, the WSJ said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He extended the invitation to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a phone call late last week.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits came in unchanged in the week ended November 16th.

The report said initial jobless claims came in at 227,000, unchanged from the previous week's revised level. Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 219,000 from the 225,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unchanged figure, jobless claims are hovering at their highest level since hitting 229,000 in the week ended June 22.

A separate report released by the National Association of Realtors showed existing home sales in the U.S. rebounded by more than expected in the month of October.

NAR said existing home sales jumped by 1.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.46 million in October after tumbling by 2.5 percent to a revised rate of 5.360 million in September.

Economists had expected existing home sales to surge up by 1.4 percent compared to the 2.2 percent slump originally reported for the previous month.

Sector News

Gold stocks showed a significant move to the downside on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index down by 2.2 percent.

The sell-off by gold stocks came amid a notable decrease by the price of the precious metal, with gold for December delivery sliding $10.60 to $1,463.60 an ounce.

Considerable weakness was also visible among commercial real estate stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent drop by the Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index.

Semiconductor, computer hardware and housing stocks also moved notably lower, while energy stocks moved to the upside amid a sharp increase by the price of crude oil.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged by 1.6 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both edged down by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries gave back some ground after moving notably higher over the past few sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 3.4 basis points to 1.772 percent.

Looking Ahead

News on the trade front is likely to remain in focus on Friday, although a report on consumer sentiment in the month of November may also attract some attention.

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