The S&P 500 equity index closed out the trading day on Wednesday in negative territory as gains in technology stocks were offset by a decline in healthcare shares. There was also increasing concern over prospects for a deal to end a trade war between the United States and China.
Technology shares led the Nasdaq higher while the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a nominal loss.
The equity markets struggled for direction throughout the session as investors pondered whether a planned meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Japan would yield any progress in the two country’s protracted tariff dispute.
The market initially gained a bit of ground after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted by CNBC interview as saying the trade deal between the United States and China is “about 90%” complete. His comments were later restated to show he was using the past tense to describe progress in the talks and the gains evaporated.
A rise in crude prices helped energy stocks. Energy and tech companies were the largest percentage gainers among the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, while defensive utilities, real estate and consumer staples saw the largest losses.
Chip manufacturers led the tech rally. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index rose 3.2% after Micron Technology posted upbeat results and forecast a recovery in chip demand. Micron’s shares closed with a 13.3% gain in price.
Apple advanced 2.2% after the company confirmed that it bought self-driving startup Drive.ai and after Trump suggested in an interview that the European Union was out of line with its lawsuits against U.S. tech firms, saying that the United States was the one that should be taking action.
EU antitrust regulators on Wednesday hit Broadcom with demands that the chipmaker drop its exclusivity clauses with TV and modem makers as part of its ongoing investigation. Nevertheless, Broadcom’s shares gained 1.8%
General Mills was the largest percentage loser on the S&P 500, falling 4.5% after the packaged food company missed quarterly sales estimates, hit by lower snacks demand in North America.
In economic news, new orders for non-defense capital goods rose more than economists expected in May, suggesting some stabilization in business spending, which had shown signs of weakness amid trade jitters and bloated inventories.
However, overall orders for durable goods fell, driven by a 28.2% decline in non-defense aircraft orders, partly due to Boeing’s move to cut production of its troubled 737 MAX aircraft.
Approximately 6.69 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges on Wednesday, as compared to a 6.99 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Equipment Orders Up the Most in Four Months
Business equipment orders rebounded in May with the largest increase in four months, signaling corporate investment is holding up despite tensions with major trading partners fueling uncertainty about the outlook.
The Commerce Department reported on Wednesday morning that a proxy for business investment — non-military capital goods orders excluding aircraft — rose 0.4% after a 1% decline in the prior month.
The broader measure of bookings for all durable goods, or items meant to last at least three years, fell 1.3%, weighed down by a slump in civilian aircraft orders.
The pickup in equipment orders may ease concerns that unpredictable trade policy is weighing on manufacturers and complicating business investment. Stronger demand would offer more of a tailwind to second-quarter economic growth after a downbeat April figure.
The headline durable-goods figure reflects a 28.2% drop in orders for civilian aircraft and parts following a 39.3% plunge in April. Boeing Co. said earlier this month it booked no aircraft orders in May following just four in April amid continued fallout from 737 Max crisis.
A separate report indicated that the merchandise-trade deficit widened in May to a five-month high amid a surge in imports following President Donald Trump’s decision to increase levies on $200 billion of items from China.
The durables report showed the three-month annualized gain for business-equipment shipments eased to 1.7% from 3%, while orders slipped to 1.9% from 2.6%, suggesting softer momentum.
Excluding transportation-equipment demand, which tends to be volatile, orders rose 0.3%, the most since October, after a drop. Defense capital-goods orders fell 7.8%.
Shipments of non-military capital goods excluding aircraft increased 0.7%. Durable goods inventories rose 0.5% following a 0.4% gain.