FILE- In this March 5, 2019, file photo specialist Matthew Grenier works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 3. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

US stock indexes waver in late-afternoon trading

April 03, 2019 - 3:42 pm

U.S. stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses Wednesday as a late-afternoon wave of trading volatility put the market's modest early gains at risk.

Energy companies, consumer goods makers and health care stocks took some of the heaviest losses, offsetting gains in other sectors. Noble Energy slid 2.7%, tobacco company Altria Group dropped 5.2% and Mylan fell 3.4%.

Chipmakers led the gainers in the technology sector. Advanced Micro Devices jumped 7.9% and Micron Technology climbed 2.8%.

Traders weighed a new report from payroll processor ADP showing private U.S. businesses added 129,000 jobs last month, down from the previous month's gain of 197,000. The report comes a day before the government issues its tally of jobs added by U.S. employers last month. Economists project a gain of 170,000, according to FactSet.

The U.S. and China resumed negotiations Wednesday to end a trade war that has raised prices on goods for both consumers and companies. Investors hope that the world's two largest economies can agree to pull back on some of those tariffs and move toward a more stable trading partnership.

Markets have swayed for months as the contentious talks drag on. The latest reports say that both sides have resolved most of the key issues, with some pledges from China to end practices viewed by the U.S. as technology theft.

Investors were also keeping a close watch on Britain's messy departure from the European Union and a new round of corporate earnings results set to begin next week. The overall forecast is for a weak round of results, with earnings by S&P 500 companies expected to contract by 4 percent, according to FactSet.

Delta will kick off the earnings results for airlines early next week, with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo leading bank earnings later in the week.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Investors are sort of waiting for first-quarter earnings reports to begin," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "And they expect results to come in a little bit better than currently estimated."

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 9 points, or less than 0.1%, to 26,188 as of 3:36 p.m. Eastern Time. The S&P 500 index gained 0.1%, barely on track for a five-day winning streak. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, climbed 0.5%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 0.3%.

Major indexes in Europe finished higher.

WEAK GAME: Video game retailer GameStop fell 3.8% after reporting weak first-quarter sales, with more of the same likely for the year. It expects sales to fall as much as 10% this year and would not give investors a profit forecast. The stock has lost about two-thirds of its value since 2015 as revenue declines while gamers bypass retail shops for games that can be bought and played online.

MORE EATING, DRINKING AND PLAYING: Dave & Buster's added 4.9% after the restaurant and arcade operator beat fourth-quarter forecasts. A key sales figure jumped and also beat forecasts as the company attracted more business with the addition of a virtual reality game platform.

NEW INGREDIENT: Blue Apron, which delivers ready-to-make meal kits, gained 7.9% as it changes leadership. CEO Bradley Dickerson resigned and is being replaced by former Etsy executive Linda Kozlowski. The company has been struggling since it went public in June 2017. Its stock is down about 90 percent since then.


AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed to this story.

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