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Wall Street closed in the red on Thursday after a topsy-turvy trading day in which investors were buffeted by a flurry of news on trade and rising oil prices.
After opening lower, stocks turned positive but then headed south again shortly after President Donald Trump cast doubt on the chances that current trade talks with China would succeed.
The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average and tech-heavy Nasdaq both fell 0.2 percent to close at 24,713.98 and 7,382.47 respectively.
The broader S&P 500 closed down less than a tenth of a percentage point at 2,720.12.
But in a sign that investors could be looking for safe harbor amid geopolitical turmoil, the Russell 2000 – an index of small-cap stocks more insulated from global trade – hit an all-time high.
Karl Haeling of LBBW bank told AFP Thursday’s dip in stocks was more a question ‘general uncertainty about trade and interest rates’ rather than any single concern.
The Russell 2000’s out-performance of the wider market suggested this, he said.
‘Given the uncertainty over trade, Iranian sanctions and various other geopolitical hot spots, people are making a bet that US growth will outperform the rest of the world and that these companies will be less affected,’ he said.
Worries of reduced Iranian crude production due to renewed US sanctions briefly saw oil prices spike, exacerbating fears of inflation and economic drag, before ending flat.
At the White House on Thursday, Trump lashed out at Europe and China, calling them ‘spoiled’ and openly casting doubt on the chances of a successful deal with Beijing even as a Chinese delegation was in Washington to continue talks.
Fresh economic data on Thursday showed US unemployment rolls had fallen to their lowest level in nearly 45 years, pointing to the exceedingly tight labor market, as well as rising prices set my manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region.
Both readings suggest the Federal Reserve could be under increased pressure to raise interest rates – a prospect that frequently spooks investors.
Cisco sank 4.8 percent despite beating Wall Street estimates for quarterly earnings but reporting weaker-than-expected sales in a key business segment.
Global retail giant Walmart dropped 1.9 percent after the company reported profit margins were under pressure, even though earnings beat expectations.
But Coca-Cola closed up 1.8 percent after receiving an upgrade from Barclays.