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March 19, 2019, 4:27 p.m. EDT

Stocks close mostly lower as trade news dominates market action

The Fed holds its second interest-rate policy meeting of the year

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By Sue Chang and Chris Matthews, MarketWatch


Bloomberg News/Landov
The Federal Reserve building in Washington

U.S. stocks closed mostly lower Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average snapping a four-day winning streak, as investors tried to make sense of a pair of conflicting reports on U.S.-China trade talks.

The Federal Reserve also convened a two-day policy meeting which will conclude Wednesday.

How did the benchmarks fare?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.33% shed 26.72 points, or 0.1%, to 25,887.38, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.67% slipped 0.37 point to 2,832.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.46% rose 9.47 points, or 0.1%, to 7,723.95.

What drove the market?

A Bloomberg News report that China is pushing back against U.S. demands for concessions in bilateral trade talks dampened market sentiment with major indexes coming off intraday highs. Chinese officials are reportedly indicating that the U.S. has not made sufficient assurances that President Donald Trump’s administration will lift tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for Beijing agreeing to changes in their intellectual property regulations.

However, the The Wall Street Journal also reported that the two countries are in the final stages of negotiations with U.S. Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin scheduled to fly to Beijing next week .

Investors are also on standby for the Fed’s policy decision on Wednesday. No changes in rates are expected, but market participants will focus on remarks by Chairman Jerome Powell at his news conference and policy makers’ forecasts of future rate moves.

Read: What ‘Fed drift’ says about how the stock market behaves around policy meetings

Of particular interest is whether the Fed will announce plans to bring its balance-sheet runoff effort to an early end.

See: Fed seen revealing ‘how and when’ it will stop shedding balance sheet assets

Also read: Here are 3 things to watch when the Fed unveils its latest dot plot

New orders for American-made goods rose 0.1% in January, the Commerce Department reported. The growth was below the 0.4% increase in factory orders expected by economists polled by MarketWatch, and matches the 0.1% increase in December.

What were analysts saying?

Cliff Hodge, director of investments for Cornerstone Wealth, urged investors to “ignore the headline” following the loss of market’s momentum in the wake of the trade-related headlines.

/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
25,679.90
-84.10 -0.33%
Volume: 279.56M
May 20, 2019 4:51p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
2,840.23
-19.30 -0.67%
Volume: 1.90B
May 20, 2019 4:51p
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/zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
7,702.38
-113.91 -1.46%
Volume: 1.88M
May 20, 2019 5:16p
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