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Marketplace

U.S. stocks veer lower in choppy trading

Specialist Dilip Patel (right) works with traders at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Stocks extended the market's losing streak into a fourth week.
Specialist Dilip Patel (right) works with traders at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Stocks extended the market's losing streak into a fourth week.

A day of choppy trading on Wall Street ended Monday with stocks broadly lower as the market extended its losing streak into a fourth week.

Technology stocks, consumer goods makers, health care companies and banks accounted for much of the selling, which accelerated in the last hour of trading, erasing modest gains from midday. Communication services stocks eked out a slight gain, bucking the broader market slide. Crude oil prices edged lower and bond yields rose.

The market is coming off a three-week skid after a mostly discouraging batch of economic data that stoked investors’ worries that a slowdown in U.S. economic growth could worsen.

The combination of uncertainty over the costly trade war between the U.S. and China, and the impeachment inquiry drama unfolding in Washington, is likely to continue to drag on the economy and weigh on markets, said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust.

“And that’s why the markets are treading water right now, waiting to see if another shoe drops,” Roth said.

The S&P 500 fell 13.22 points, or 0.4%, at 2,938.79. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 95.70 points, or 0.4%, to 26,478.02. The Nasdaq dropped 26.18 points, or 0.3%, to 7,956.29.

Smaller-company stocks fared slightly better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index slipped 2.91 points, or 0.2%, to 1,497.79.

Bond prices fell, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury to 1.56%, up from 1.51% late Friday.

The benchmark S&P 500 index began the day lower, picked up some gains around midday and then veered back into the red by late afternoon.

The wobbly day in the market reflects the cautious approach investors are taking as they try to gauge how the economy and corporate profits will fare amid the lingering trade war and political uncertainty in Washington.

Last week, the S&P 500 posted its first back-to-back losses of 1% this year as weak numbers in surveys of manufacturing and service industries showed the U.S.-China trade war is threatening U.S. economic growth.

Some of those fears were allayed Friday when a government jobs report showed that employers still are adding jobs at a healthy clip and that the national unemployment rate dropped to a five-decade low.

Still, last week marked the third weekly loss in a row for the broader market as the trade war takes its toll on confidence. Markets have been whipsawed for months by the ups and downs in the dispute.

“Labor has held up fairly OK, but we’re definitely decelerating from an economic standpoint, so corporate earnings may reflect that negatively,” Roth said. “The biggest drivers of the market are going to be who controls policy in Washington and what the specifics are around the Chinese trade situation.”

Envoys from Washington and Beijing are scheduled to meet later this week in their latest bid to put an end to the dispute that is stunting global economic growth and spooking the stock market.

Broadcom led the slide in technology stocks Monday, dropping 1.9%.

Beverage companies fell amid a sell-off in consumer product makers. Constellation Brands slid 2.6% and PepsiCo fell 1.4%. Coca-Cola lost 1.2%.

Several big drugmakers helped pull health care sector stocks lower. Abbott Laboratories gave up 1.2% and Merck & Co. slid 0.7%.

Financial sector stocks also declined, giving up early gains. Progressive dropped 1.5%.

Discovery led the gains in the communication services sector. Its stock rose 1.4%. Fox inched up 0.1% after the company settled a dispute with Dish Network over carriage of Fox’s local TV stations and cable sports networks. Dish pulled the broadcast network from 17 markets in September. Shares in Dish gained 0.2%.

ConocoPhillips climbed 2.1% after the energy company raised its quarterly dividend by 38% and will buy back $3 billion of its stock in 2020.

General Motors fell 0.5%. The stock has lost nearly 10% of its value since contract negotiations with the now striking United Auto Workers started to falter. The situation has taken another bad turn as negotiations hit a snag over product commitments for U.S. factories.

Workers were warned by United Auto Workers Vice President Terry Dittes on Sept. 6 that bargaining was moving slowly. They moved to picket lines Sept. 16, crippling the company’s factories and accelerating stock losses.

Despite the labor issues, General Motor’s stock is still up 3.8% for the year, although that is far behind competitor Ford’s 13.7% annual gain.

Benchmark crude oil fell 6 cents to settle at $52.75 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, slipped 2 cents to close at $58.35 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $1.57 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 1 cent to $1.90 a gallon. Natural gas fell 5 cents to $2.30 a 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $8.50 to $1,497.70 an ounce, silver fell 8 cents to $17.46 an ounce and copper rose 1 cent to $2.57 a pound.

The dollar rose to 107.28 Japanese yen, up from 106.87 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.0973 from $1.0984.

Major stock indexes in Europe closed broadly higher. Stocks in Asia ended mixed. Chinese markets are due to reopen Tuesday after a weeklong break.

• AP business writer Damian J. Troise contributed to this report.

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