Wall Street finishes flat as trade deal jitters hover

“The big headline was Reuters reporting that the signing of ‘phase one’ would potentially be pushed into December. The market sold off on that but nothing major, and right now investors are in a holding pattern, waiting to see if we set new highs and can punch through them,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Trump administration official said it was still possible the “phase one” agreement would not be reached, but a deal was more likely than not.

The recent rally to record highs had been fueled by signs of progress in the US-China trade talks along with some upbeat earnings reports.

On Wednesday, Humana rose 3.5 per cent as the health insurer reported quarterly profit that beat estimates on higher sales of its government-backed Medicare Advantage health plans.

CVS gained 5.4 per cent after the pharmacy chain posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, boosted by its Aetna health insurance business and pharmacy benefit management unit. The S&P health care was up 0.6 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.07 points to 27,492.56, the S&P 500 gained 2.16 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 3,076.78 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 24.05 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 8,410.63.

Also in health care, DaVita shares jumped 12.9 per cent following its results.

The S&P 500 financials index extended recent gains, rising 0.4 per cent, while the S&P 500 energy index fell 2.3 per cent following declines in oil prices.

Match Group fell 2.5 per cent as the Tinder owner forecast fourth-quarter revenue below estimates in the face of stiff competition from rival online dating services. Its parent firm, IAC/InterActiveCorp, dropped 4.3 per cent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.21-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.76-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 14 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 70 new highs and 68 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 7.93 billion shares, compared to the 6.74 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.


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