Stocks drift between small gains, losses in midday trading

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are moving sideways in midday trading on Wall Street Tuesday as losses for banks and big technology companies offset gains elsewhere in the market.

The stagnant movement came a day after the market failed to hold on to an early gain. Citigroup slumped 1.3 percent, while Micron Technology dropped 1.4 percent.

Several retailers were moving higher, including Target and Kohl’s, which reported results that were better than analysts were expecting.

Victoria’s Secret maker L Brands jumped after an activist investors called on the company to split up, and Papa John’s International rose after reaching a settlement with founder John Schnatter that calls for him step down from the board once an independent director replaces him.

Investors were hoping that more details would emerge from media reports Monday that the U.S. and China were getting closer to resolving their trade dispute. The market has often jumped on hopes that progress was being made on the trade talks, only to fall back later as details didn’t come through.

Meanwhile, China plans to take additional measures to help shore up its cooling economy. The nation’s growth target for the year is now between 6 percent and 6.5 percent. That’s slightly below last year’s 6.6 percent growth rate.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed as of 11:30 a.m. ET. The S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq composite were also little changed.

RETAIL RISING: Target jumped 4.7 after the retailer surprised investors with its fourth-quarter results and forecast. The company
Target noted strong online sales and traffic growth during the crucial holiday sales quarter. The company and its peers had to deal with an overall slowdown in retail sales at the end of 2018 while also competing with e-commerce behemoth Amazon.

Kohl’s rose 6.7 percent following a similarly upbeat fourth-quarter report and forecast.

PIZZA’S UP: Papa John’s International rose 2.8 percent after the company reached a settlement with founder John Schnatter that includes him resigning from the board of directors.

The company has been floundering since Schnatter took a series of missteps, first blaming disappointing sales on NFL player protests and then using a racial slur during a company conference call. He stepped down as CEO in 2017 and later resigned as chairman of the board.

DELICATES AND SCENTS: Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands rose 2.3 percent after Barington Capital Group sent a letter to founder and CEO Leslie Wexner urging the company to shed its Bath & Body Works business. Wexner founded Limited Brands and took it public in 1969. He has been at the helm of the company since and currently holds a 17 percent stake in L Brands.

By Associated Press