Here Are 3 Hot Things to Know About Stocks Right Now

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher Wednesday ahead of high-level trade talks Thursday in Washington after a report said China was still open to a partial trade agreement with the U.S. as long as the Trump administration doesn't impose any more tariffs. 
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) fell after a jury in Pennsylvania ordered the company to pay $8 billion in damages linked to side effects from its antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
  • The Fed sees "a clearer picture of protracted weakness," according to the FOMC minutes for its September meeting released Wednesday.
  • Levi Strauss (LEVI) dropped 7.4% to $17.55 as the apparel company reported stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings but saw profits drop. Levi Strauss is Real Money's Stock of the Day.

Wall Street Overview

Stocks finished higher Wednesday, but pared earlier gains late in the session after Reuters reported that Chinese officials had lowered their expectations for Thursday's trade talks in Washington.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 182 points, or 0.70%, to 26,346,the S&P 500 climbed 0.91% and the Nasdaq rose 1.02%.

Stocks had been climbing all day after a report said China was still open to a partial trade agreement with the U.S. as long as the Trump administration doesn't impose any more tariffs.

Chinese officials are looking for assurances that no further tariffs will be applied to U.S. imports ahead of the crucial trade talks, a Bloomberg report said, but noted that Beijing was willing to step-up the pace of agricultural purchases even as it held to its earlier position on issues such as industrial reforms and state-owned company subsidies.

Two rounds of higher duties are set to take in October and in December.

Tensions still remain between the world's two largest economies as the U.S. announced restrictions and sanctions on Chinese interests and Beijing warned to "stay tuned" for reprisals.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced visa restrictions on senior Chinese officials, a move it tied to the Commerce Department's decision to blacklist eight China-based technology companies, as well as 20 separate entities, for their role in mistreating ethnic minority Muslims around China.

The two policy moves followed a report that said White House officials were looking at ways in which to limit government pension fund investments in Chinese stocks, which only added to the tensions ahead of the trade talks, which are scheduled to include China's Vice Premier Liu Hie, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as enthusiasm over a trade deal waned.

The afternoon release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's September meeting seemed to have little impact on the markets, but the minutes did note that "participants generally judged that downside risks to the outlook for economic activity had increased somewhat since their July meeting, particularly those stemming from trade policy uncertainty and conditions abroad."

The minutes also said that "although readings on the labor market and the overall economy continued to be strong, in investment spending, manufacturing production, and exports had emerged."

"This is without a doubt a Fed divided-and the market reaction seems to suggest folks think the current rate calibration is drawing to a close," said Mike Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E*Trade. "Trade and slowing global growth continue to be top concerns but it seems that some Fed officials are questioning how much further and how often they can continue to cut. And while the market still largely expects a cut by the end of this year, our vision into 2020 has just become a lot less clear."

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) fell 2% to $129.23 after a jury in Pennsylvania ordered the consumer healthcare giant to pay $8 billion in punitive damages linked to side effects from its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The company faces more than 13,000 lawsuits tied to the drug, according to its latest 10-Q filing with the SEC.

American Airlines  ( AAL) rose 3.1% to $27.07 after the company said it plans to extend cancellations linked to the grounded Boeing ( BA - Get Report) 737 MAX into at least early January.

Levi Strauss (LEVI) dropped 7.4% to $17.55 as the apparel company reported stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings but saw profits drop. Levi Strauss is Real Money's Stock of the Day.

In economic news, the number of job openings was little changed at 7.1 million on the last business day of August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for August, while the number of hires edged down 199,000 to 5.8 million.

U.S. wholesale inventories increased less than initially estimated in August, the Commerce Department said, rising 0.2% in August instead of the previously reported 0.4% gain. Total inventories were up 6.2% from the revised August 2018 level.

U.S. crude supplies rose for the fourth straight week, the Energy Information Administration said, increasing by 2.9 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 4. Analysts were looking for an increase of 2.4 million barrels.

Brent crude contracts were unmoved at $58.24 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate contracts, which are more tightly linked to U.S. gas prices, were down 12 cents to $52.51 a barrel

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