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U.S. Stocks Waver, Awaiting Trade Developments

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11/18/2019 | 10:01am EST

By Caitlin Ostroff

U.S. stocks started the week with slight losses in the absence of any further developments on U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5 points, or less than 0.1%, to 27999 shortly after the opening bell. The gauge ended last week above the 28000 milestone.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite declined 0.3%

China's state media Xinhua reported that senior officials from both nations had "constructive discussions" on Saturday regarding each other's concerns about a "phase one" deal. But investors remain skeptical, as talks between the world's two largest economies have hit snags in recent weeks over China's reluctance to commit to a specific targets for purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, as well as Beijing's concerns about President Trump's willingness to lift existing tariffs.

"The key to everything we're seeing at the moment is the perception of uncertainty among investors," said Dan Kemp, chief investment officer for Morningstar Investment Management in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "At the moment, we are living through a period where that uncertainty is very visible."

Meanwhile, shares of Xerox Holdings fell 0.5% after PC and printer maker HP rejected a $33 billion takeover offer. Shares of Estée Lauder edged higher after the beauty-products brand agreed to acquire Seoul-based Have & Be Co. to expand its reach in the Asia-Pacific region.

Coty shares rose 3.1% after the fragrance and cosmetics company said it is paying $600 million for a controlling stake in Kylie Jenner's cosmetics startup.

Over in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 1.4% while the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.6%. China's central bank on Monday lowered its regular reverse repurchase rate for the first time since October 2015 in an effort to boost market confidence and bolster economic growth.

The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 index ticked down 0.1%, with the real estate and financial services sectors edging higher. Shares in Aviva fell 4.7% after the British insurer said it plans to retain its Singapore and China units, following a Bloomberg News report that a group of financial firms were trying to buy its assets in Singapore and Vietnam.

Spain's Bolsas y Mercados Españoles rallied 37% after two rival exchange-operators said Monday they are interested in a potential acquisition of the Madrid-based company.

The pound gained 0.6% against the U.S. dollar as weekend opinion polls showed that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party has the highest level of support since 2017. Mr. Johnson also said that all the Conservative Party candidates have pledged to vote for his Brexit deal if he wins a majority in the Dec. 12 election.

Later in the day, investors will be able to gauge U.S. home builders' sentiment when the National Association of Home Builders releases its survey. Cleveland Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester is also scheduled to speak at the University of Maryland.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
CHINA-SHANGHAI COMP 1.78% 2967.68 End-of-day quote.18.81%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.01% 28135.38 Delayed Quote.20.61%
HANG SENG 2.58% 27679.88 Real-time Quote.7.10%
NASDAQ 100 0.25% 8487.708348 Delayed Quote.33.76%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.20% 8734.879088 Delayed Quote.30.42%
S&P 500 0.01% 3168.8 Delayed Quote.26.41%
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