Thursday 16 August 2018

Stocks edge higher as materials firms and retailers rise

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.18 points to 2,728.12.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 7.18 points to 2,728.12 (Martin Keene/PA)
The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 7.18 points to 2,728.12 (Martin Keene/PA)

By Marley Jay

US stocks meandered but finished mostly higher as retailers and industrial companies rose.

A jump in metals prices helped mining and materials companies. Asian markets jumped after the North Korean government said it was open to talks with the US about ending its nuclear program.

Stocks have edged higher over the last three days, but they’ve frequently bounced up and down as investors grappled with the Trump administration’s stance on trade and whether the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports will push inflation higher in the US and lead to retaliation by other countries that would hurt economic growth and corporate profits.

Kristina Hooper, chief global markets strategist for Invesco, said Wall Street is having trouble deciding if the tariffs are more of a bargaining chip in trade negotiations, as President Donald Trump has suggested at times in the last few days, or if they are a goal on their own.

“When it seemed as though it was just rhetoric (on Monday), markets relaxed,” she said. “Today, I think concerns have grown that maybe this isn’t just a bargaining tactic.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.18 points, or 0.3%, to 2,728.12. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 9.36 points to 24,884.12. It rose as much as 120 points early on and later fell as much as 166 points before recovering. The Nasdaq composite jumped 41.30 points, or 0.6%, to 7,372.01. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 16.16 points, or 1%, to 1,562.20.

Concerns have grown that maybe this isn't just a bargaining tactic Kristina Hooper

Stocks fell 3.7% during a three-day losing streak last week after Mr Trump announced his tariff plans. Other countries objected and the European Union announced plans to put tariffs on some US-made goods including bourbon and motorcycles. Companies that make most of their sales overseas have fared the worst while US-focused companies have regained their losses from that three-day stretch.

Asian markets climbed after North Korea said it is willing to start talks with the US on denuclearisation. It also said it would stop nuclear and missile tests during those discussions. The Kospi in Seoul jumped 1.5% while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.8%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 2.1%.

While retailers including Amazon, Best Buy and Lowe’s gained ground, Target lost 3.35 dollars, or 4.5%, to 71.79 dollars after it reported that costs associated with overhauling its stores and investing in its website affected its earnings and forecasts for the current year. Target also said it is raising minimum starting pay for workers for the second time in less than a year.

Qualcomm fell and Broadcom rose after Bloomberg News reported that Broadcom is on track to get more leverage in its effort to buy Qualcomm, which wants Broadcom to make a richer offer. Bloomberg reported that so far, directors backed by Broadcom are on pace to win six seats on Qualcomm’s board. Qualcomm’s current board opposes Broadcom’s 117 billion dollar bid for the company and says the price is too low, while a board supported by Broadcom would likely accept the offer instead.

Qualcomm gave up 1.87 dollars, or 2.9%, to 62.14 dollars and Broadcom added 3.98 dollars, or 1.6%, to 250.96 dollars. Both stocks fell on Monday after The Committee for Foreign Investment in the US said it will look into the deal.

After an early loss, Nordstrom rose 59 cents, or 1.1%, to 52.49 dollars after the department store rejected an offer from the Nordstrom family to take it private, saying the price of 50 dollars a share was too low. The family group includes co-presidents Blake, Peter and Erik Nordstrom. They and other family members own 30% of Nordstrom’s stock.

Metals prices ended higher, boosting mining stocks. Gold rose 15.30 dollars, or 1.2%, to 1,335.20 dollars an ounce. Silver climbed 37 cents, or 2.3%, to 16.78 dollars an ounce. Copper added 3 cents to 3.16 dollars a pound. Gold and copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan rose 51 cents, or 2.8%, to 18.70 dollars.

Germany’s DAX rose 0.2% and London’s FTSE 100 gained 0.4%. France’s CAC 40 added 0.1%.

The dollar inched up to 106.21 yen from 106.20 yen. The euro rose to 1.2405 dollars from 1.2327 dollars.

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