Wall Street treads water as growth worries weigh; trade in focus

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes swung between gains and losses on Thursday, as optimism fueled by progress in U.S.-China trade talks was clouded by fears of an economic slowdown after a cut in fourth-quarter GDP growth.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Data showed domestic economy slowed more than initially thought in the fourth quarter, keeping growth in 2018 below the 3 percent annual target, and corporate profits failed to rise for the first time in more than two years.

Growth worries hit markets last week when the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year and the U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007.

The benchmark 10-year yields rose off their 15-month lows on Thursday but the yield curve prolonged its inversion. An inverted yield could indicate that a recession is likely in one to two years. [US/]

“It’s mixed messages on growth, trade and treasuries. Growth is slower but with few signs of recession, trade is positive but not as positive as investors were hoping and treasuries are stable but not as much as yesterday,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday that China had made proposals in talks with the United States on a range of issues that go further than it has before, including on forced technology transfer.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Washington could lift some tariffs on Beijing, while leaving others in place as part of an enforcement mechanism on the deal.

Senior U.S. officials arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a fresh round of trade talks, which will be followed by a round in Washington next week.

Trade sensitive industrial stocks rose 0.33 percent, with Caterpillar Inc up 0.6 percent and 3M Co gaining 0.3 percent.

“The markets had priced in a trade deal by the month of April but we see that pushed into the month of may or June, so that is a pretty fluid situation,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

At 12:53 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 16.96 points, or 0.07 percent, at 25,642.55. The S&P 500 was up 2.11 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,807.48 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 11.79 points, or 0.15 percent, at 7,655.16.

Consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.42 percent, led by a 14.9 percent gain in shares of PVH Corp.

The Calvin Klein owner forecast full-year adjusted profit and sales above Wall Street expectations.

Nielsen Holdings Plc tumbled 10.4 percent, the most among S&P 500 companies, after a report that private equity firm Blackstone Group backed out of an auction to buy the ratings company.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.23-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 21 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 33 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Anil D’Silva

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