U.S Stock

In this April 11, 2019, file photo trader Peter Castelli works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday, April 18. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

U.S. stock indexes wavered between modest gains and losses in midday trading Thursday as another slide in health care sector companies offset gains elsewhere in the market.

Energy and technology stocks also took losses. Smaller company stocks fell more than the rest of the market for the second straight day.

Drugmaker Pfizer fell 3%, Cabot Oil & Gas dropped 2% and PayPal slid 2.4%.

Industrial sector stocks led the gainers following solid quarterly reports from several companies. Snap-on surged 6.5% and Honeywell International gained 2.8%.

Investors were weighing a mixed batch of company earnings reports. Analysts expect the first quarter results for S&P 500 companies overall to be the weakest in nearly three years.

Traders also had their eye on a couple of widely expected technology IPOs: Zoom Technologies and Pinterest.

The market got some encouraging economic news from the Commerce Department, which said U.S. retail sales surged in March at the fastest pace since late 2017.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. and Chinese negotiators are planning two more rounds of meetings aimed at ending a tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions.

U.S. stock markets were wrapping up a shortened week Thursday before closing for the Good Friday holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.1% as of noon Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 100 points, or 0.4%, to 26,550. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.1% and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gave up 0.2%.

Major European stock indexes were mostly higher.

NOT A GOOD LOOK: Skechers USA tumbled 11.5% after the footwear company’s first quarter result fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. The company also issued second quarter guidance that came in below analysts’ estimates.

DISSAPOINTING RESULTS: KeyCorp fell 2.2% after the bank’s latest quarterly snapshot missed analysts’ targets as income from fees declined.

SMOKED: Shares in cigarette makers fell after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 nationally.

The Senate leader said his bill will cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices, and will continue to hold retailers responsible for verifying the age of anyone buying tobacco products. About a dozen states have already enacted laws raising the minimum legal age to 21.

Altria Group fell 2.5% and Philip Morris International dropped 1.2%.

MIXED RESULTS: American Express rose 1.7% after the credit card issuer reported lower earnings in the first quarter, but still beat analysts’ estimates. The company’s revenue fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts.

CHUGGING AHEAD: Union Pacific gained 4.3% after the railroad’s first quarter profit climbed 6% even though the company hauled 2% fewer carloads and dealt with massive flooding. Union Pacific’s earnings topped analysts’ estimates, though its revenue declined, falling short of the Street’s forecasts.

SOMETHING TO BUILD ON: United Rentals surged 7.6% after the construction equipment rental company’s first quarter results beat Wall Street’s expectations.

ECONOMIC DATA: The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales surged in March at the fastest pace since late 2017, driven by increased spending on autos, gasoline, furniture and clothing.

The gains mark a sharp rebound from a lackluster period of sales dating back to December. It’s a sign that the healthy job market has likely made consumers more eager to spend in ways that boost overall economic growth.

US-CHINA TRADE: The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. and Chinese negotiators are planning two more rounds of meetings aimed at ending a tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions.

The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said the two sides are aiming for a signing ceremony in late May or early June.

The countries have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods, rattling global financial markets. Washington and other trading partners say Beijing’s plans for state-led creation of Chinese competitors in robotics and other technologies violate its market-opening commitments.

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