The Dow and wider U.S. stock market rallied on Tuesday but failed to sustain intraday highs, as anxious investors shifted their focus to a fresh round of China trade negotiations. The sensitivity of the upcoming negotiations didn’t prevent the United States from sailing two ships through the Taiwan Strait this weekend, in an operation that the Trump administration says will become more routine moving forward.
Dow Backtracks from Session High
After rallying 180 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average pulled back sharply in the afternoon session. The blue-chip index reported gains of 70 points, or 0.3%, to 25,587.46. Walt Disney Co (DIS) was the Dow’s top performer, gaining 2%.
The broad S&P 500 Index of large-cap stocks climbed 0.4% to 2,809.76. Energy and consumer staples were the top performers, gaining 0.9% and 0.6%, respectively. On the opposite side of the ledger, communication services and consumer discretionary shares were the main laggards.
The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.4% to 7,666.37.
U.S.-China Trade Negotiations in Focus
President Trump will send his top brass to Beijing this week to continue negotiating a new trade agreement with China. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to leave to Beijing on Thursday, where they will be greeted by a Chinese delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He. China’s negotiating team will make a return trip to Washington, D.C. next week.
Trump’s position strengthened over the weekend after U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that a nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller did not find incriminating evidence against the president. Mueller was investigating Trump for colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
The mainstream media happily fanned allegations that Trump’s campaign team was working with the Kremlin to take down Hillary Clinton during the last election cycle. The Mueller investigation appears to have silenced the president’s critics, but don’t expect an apology anytime soon.
U.S. and Chinese officials are looking to finalize a trade agreement by the end of April, though a firm deadline hasn’t been announced. Talks were initially set to run until early March, a self-imposed deadline agreed to by Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping back in early December.