Stocks moved mostly lower Tuesday as nerves rose over a politically fraught meeting between Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping later this week.
The S&P 500 was down 0.22%, and the Nasdaq declined 0.15%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.03% thanks to a rally in Caterpillar (CAT - Get Report) shares. The heavy machinery company jumped 2% after Goldman Sachs added it to its "Conviction Buy" list. Analysts said they are bullish given "structurally higher mid-cycle" earnings per share, management's focus on improving returns of capital, and the company's "exposure to under-invested machinery markets in the early stages of recovery. "
Trump and Xi are set to meet on Thursday and Friday at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and are expected to discuss North Korea, trade, and currencies. Trump has been highly critical of China, accusing the country of manipulating its currency and stealing U.S. jobs. Trump recently said that if China does not help out in the fight against North Korea, the U.S. will do it on its own, though many argue China is in the unique position of being one of the only countries that could do so.
"The most negative scenario would see Trump deliver on his campaign rhetoric, slamming a 45% tariff on U.S. imports from China," Michala Marcussen, global head of economics at Societe Generale, wrote in a note. "At the other end of the spectra, China could promise to support Trump's infrastructure plans and thus also job creation in the US ... Our baseline assumption remains that an outright trade war will be averted."
The U.S. trade deficit in February largely erased an increase seen the month earlier. The deficit fell by 9.6% to $43.6 billion in February after jumping 9.6% to $48.5 billion in January. The deficit had hit its highest level in nearly five years in the first month of the year. Imports fell 1.8% in February, while exports increased 0.2%.
Factory orders increased 1% in February, according to the Census Bureau. The result was in line with consensus estimates. Orders had risen 1.2% in January. New orders for manufactured goods have increased in seven of the past eight months.
Investors also were looking ahead to a back-loaded week of economic data, particularly the U.S. jobs numbers for March on Friday. It will likely be another month of strength in the U.S. labor market with 174,000 jobs expected to have been added to payrolls. The unemployment rate is estimated to have held at 4.7%, while wages are anticipated to have climbed 0.3%. Other readings on the labor market include the ADP National Employment Report for March -- the unofficial reading on private payrolls ahead of the official U.S. jobs report -- on Wednesday, and weekly jobless claims at their regular time on Thursday.
Investors will also get the rundown of what went on behind closed doors during the Federal Reserve's March meeting when minutes are released on Wednesday afternoon. At that meeting, the central bank decided to raise the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, the third interest rates increase since 2008. The decision was near unanimous with only one dissenter. The Fed also forecast two more rate hikes in 2017, in line with its previous forecasts and as markets have anticipated.
U.S. handbag maker Kate Spade (KATE) slumped 15% on reports it will spend a few more weeks negotiating a potential sale of the company after receiving an offer last week from Coach (COH) . Michael Kors (KORS) also remains interested in Kate Spade, though it hasn't been pursuing an acquisition of the company as actively as rival fashion accessories maker Coach, according to Reuters.
Staples (SPLS) rocketed 13.5% higher on reports the company is exploring a potential sale. The Wall Street Journal reported that the stationery chain had held talks with buyout firms and that it could be worth at least around $7 billion.
Nvidia (NVDA - Get Report) declined 4.6% after Pacific Crest reduced its rating to underweight from sector weight. Analyst Michael McConnell said he grows worried over "lower margins from incremental Nintendo Switch revenue and a possible pause in the company's datacenter business this summer."
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) was slightly lower after Pacific Crest warned of slowing growth ahead. Analyst Andy Hargreaves retained his overweight rating on Apple and raised his price target to $150 from $140, though said further growth would "slow substantially" and that dividend increases and tax reform might be "necessary to drive significant upside." Pacific Crest remains bullish on iPhone unit sales estimates.
Ralph Lauren (RL - Get Report) announced layoffs on Tuesday, one of the steps to supports its "Way Forward Plan" first announced in June. The company is expecting that it will incur about $370 million in charges related to the plan. Ralph Lauren will also be closing its dedicated Polo store at 711 Fifth Ave. and will integrate those products into its flagship stores on Madison Avenue and other downtown New York locations. The stock declined 1.5%.
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