US stocks mixed ahead of more China-US trade talks

Stocks wavered between small gains and losses in morning trading on Wall Street Tuesday as U.S. markets reopened following the Presidents Day holiday and as investors sized up the latest company earnings reports.

Losses in financial, industrial and energy stocks outweighed gains in consumer goods and communications companies.

Investors are keeping a close eye on talks between U.S. and Chinese negotiators in Washington that are aimed at ending a trade war between the world’s largest economies.

After March 2, the U.S. is set to impose additional tariffs on Chinese goods, escalating a dispute that has already raised costs for companies and consumers. President Donald Trump has said there is a possibility he would extend that deadline if the two countries are close to a deal.

Traders weighed the latest batch of earnings reports from companies, including Walmart, which climbed after its earnings topped Wall Street’s expectations.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,864 as of 11:20 a.m. Eastern Time. The S&P 500 index gained less than 0.1 percent, while the Nasdaq composite added 0.2 percent. Major European indexes were headed lower.

TRADE TALKS: A truce between the U.S. and China on increased American tariffs on Chinese goods expires at the end of next week, leaving the U.S. free to more than double its import duties on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Much is riding on the outcome after an inconclusive end to an earlier round of talks in Beijing last week.

The U.S. is wrangling over trade with many nations. On Monday, the European Union warned that the bloc will hold back on a commitment to buy more American soybeans and liquefied gas if European cars are hit with punitive tariffs.

Vice Premier Liu He, China’s economy czar, was due to arrive in Washington on Thursday, China’s state media reported, after two days of preliminary talks by lower-level officials.

AN UNWELCOME DROP: Weight Watchers slumped 4.5 percent after analysts at JPMorgan downgraded the weight management services company, citing a decline in daily average users of the company’s app and growing competition.

DRILLED: Transocean slid 3.2 percent after the oil and gas drilling services company reported quarterly earnings that came in below analysts’ forecasts.

MISSED THE MARK: London-based HSBC fell 3.5 percent after the bank reported results that fell short of analysts’ estimates.

RETAIL THERAPY: Walmart climbed 3.7 percent after the retail giant reported quarterly earnings that beat forecasts. The company benefited from growth in online sales and the expansion of its grocery pickup and delivery business.

CONFIDENCE BOOST: U.S. homebuilders are feeling more confident about their sales prospects this month, according to a new survey.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Tuesday has a reading of 62. That’s an increase of four points from last month’s index and the highest reading since October.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor.

Homebuilder shares marched broadly higher following the release of the survey. Beazer Homes USA was among the biggest gainers, adding 2.2 percent.

OVERSEAS: European markets were mostly lower. Asian markets were mixed.

By Associated Press