Trade fight drags, but Apple's $1 trillion milestone boosts U.S. indexes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An intensifying trade dispute between the United States and China weighed on global stocks and bond yields on Thursday, but a rise in Apple shares took its valuation above a record $1 trillion and helped major U.S. indexes close in positive territory.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In midday trading, Apple Inc became the first publicly traded company with a market capitalization exceeding $1 trillion. That led a rebound in technology stocks that helped key U.S. indexes pare earlier losses to turn positive.

“They get the blue ribbon,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “If you look at a trillion dollars, that’s about 5 percent of the U.S. economy. On the other hand, if you look at the stock relative to the market its (price-to-earnings ratio) is less, it still has a decent growth rate.”

The tech company’s stock jumped more than 3.3 percent to as high as $208.38, bringing its gain to about 9 percent since Tuesday when it reported quarterly results that beat expectations and said it bought back $20 billion of its own shares.

The Nasdaq, Dow and benchmark S&P indexes had opened lower, but began to turn positive as the advance in Apple shares helped take the focus away from the trade dispute. The Dow, which was the worst performer of the three indexes, was the only one to end lower.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.66 points, or 0.03 percent, to 25,326.16, the S&P 500 gained 13.86 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,827.22 and the Nasdaq Composite added 95.40 points, or 1.24 percent, to 7,802.69.

Despite the day’s reprieve for Wall Street, concerns remained over the U.S.-China trade spat, which intensified on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump raised pressure on China by proposing a higher 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

China on Thursday urged the United States to “calm down,” but market participants remained unnerved.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.75 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.85 percent.

Germany’s blue-chip index DAX, which is seen as a trade war proxy, fell 1.5 percent while the broader pan-European STOXX 600 was down about 0.8 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed down 1.6 percent, dragged lower by a 1.8 percent fall in Chinese H-shares.

Benchmark U.S. government bond yields dipped as the market sought safe-haven debt in Treasuries amid the trade dispute. [US/]

U.S. yields, however, moved in narrow ranges ahead of Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for July.

“The market was pretty much back and forth. We’re just waiting for tomorrow’s payrolls,” said Tom Simons, money market economist at Jefferies in New York.

Euro zone government bond yields dipped, and borrowing costs in Germany and France pulled back from seven-week highs.

Gold prices inched downward after Fed’s upbeat assessment of the economy on Wednesday to the lowest price in more than a year as the dollar, which typically has an inverse relationship with gold, rose.

Spot gold dropped 0.6 percent to $1,208.72 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.87 percent to $1,216.90 an ounce.

The dollar index rose 0.56 percent, with the euro down 0.61 percent to $1.1587.

Oil prices strengthened after an industry report suggested U.S. crude stockpiles would soon begin to decline again after a surprise rise in the latest week.

Traders said prices rallied when industry information provider Genscape reported crude inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude, dropped 1.1 million barrels since Friday, July 27.

Brent crude futures settled up $1.06, or 1.5 percent at $73.45 a barrel. U.S. crude rose $1.30, or 1.9 percent, to $68.96 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus and Peter Hobson in London and Kate Duguid, Stephen Culp, Marcy Nicholson and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chris Reese