Wall St stalls as market, Trump priorities diverge

-A +A

NEW YORK (Feb 3):  U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday as investors turned wary following President Donald Trump's latest comments on trade and the policies he will pursue.

The S&P 500 traded at levels it was six weeks ago, losing steam as investors focus on Trump's priorities, such as restricting travel to the United States and rewriting trade deals.

Markets had rallied following Trump's Nov. 8 election win on the expectation that tax cuts, deregulation and a fiscal stimulus would accelerate economic growth.

"The market had only priced in the potentially good type of policies like tax cuts," said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial in Bethesda, Maryland.

"Now we're seeing potential protectionist and populist sentiment really come out and take the front seat. That could be bad for the world economy and that's why markets are taking a step back."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.36 points, or 0.04 percent, to 19,883.58, the S&P 500 gained 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent, to 2,280.05 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 8.51 points, or 0.15 percent, to 5,634.14.

Trump reiterated his concerns about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal and said he would like to speed up talks to either renegotiate or replace the deal.

Investors are also wary of the consequences of other of Trump's comments, including labeling a refugee swap agreement with staunch ally Australia as a "dumb deal" and that "nothing is off the table" in dealing with Iran after it test-fired a ballistic missile.

Earnings of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 7.5 percent during the last quarter of 2016 - the most in nine quarters, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

Economic data showed the U.S. labor market continues to tighten, while productivity is still weak.

Facebook fell 1.7 percent to $130.96 after hitting a record high of $135.49. Its results on Wednesday beat earnings and revenue expectations.

Macy's shares rose 5.2 percent to $30.73. The New York Post reported the retailer's outgoing CEO Terry Lundgren has become open to offers from potential buyers. The stock hit a high of $31.06 and trading volume was 1.6 times the average over the last 10 days.

Mead Johnson Nutrition jumped 22.3 percent after Reckitt Benckiser said it was in advanced talks to buy the company for $16.7 billion.

Ralph Lauren dropped 12.2 percent to $76.71 after it said Chief Executive Officer Stefan Larsson would leave following differences with the company's founder and chairman.

Results from a clutch of companies, including Amazon.com , Visa and Amgen, are expected to keep investors busy after markets close.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.19-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 73 new highs and 21 new lows. - Reuters