Wall St. falls as investors cautious on trade; Intel slides

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The benchmark S&P 500 fell on Wednesday for the third day in a row as investors remained cautious about the latest developments on U.S.-China trade talks even after hopeful comments from the White House regarding an eventual agreement.

A late slide in shares of Intel Corp contributed to losses in the last half-hour of trading. Shares of the chipmaker fell 2.5% after the company’s outlook during its investor day presentation disappointed.

Wall Street had edged higher for much of the session after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that the United States had received an indication from Beijing that China wants to make a trade deal. China’s lead negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, is due to visit Washington on Thursday and Friday.

Still, the U.S. government said in its official journal that it would raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% on Friday. China’s commerce ministry later said it would have to take retaliatory measures if U.S. tariffs were raised.

The mixed tone of trade developments made it difficult for U.S. stocks to sustain their rally, investors said.

“The last 30 minutes lets you know that people are still leaning bearish mid-week,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

Even as the S&P 500 rose in the afternoon, defensive sectors such as real estate and healthcare were among the index’s top gainers. The trade-sensitive industrial sector ended little changed, while Intel’s decline dragged down technology shares.

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“It’s consistent with people being unsure about what’s actually going to come out of Washington this week,” said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at SunTrust Advisory Services in Atlanta.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.24 points, or 0.01%, to 25,967.33, the S&P 500 lost 4.63 points, or 0.16%, to 2,879.42 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 20.44 points, or 0.26%, to 7,943.32.

The benchmark S&P 500 is now 2.5% below its record high of 2,954.13 hit last week.

Shares of Walt Disney Co rose 1.2% ahead of its quarterly results. Disney was the top boost to the S&P 500.

Disney shares were last up 0.8% in aftermarket trading.

McKesson Corp shares climbed 4.8% after the drug distributor’s quarterly results eased concerns about pricing pressures and costs related to opioid-related litigation.

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Conversely, TripAdvisor Inc shares tumbled 11.4%, the most among S&P 500 companies, after the online travel company’s quarterly revenue missed analysts’ estimates.

With earnings season entering its final stretch, first-quarter profits are now seen rising 1.2%, a sharp improvement from the 2.3% decline expected at the start of the season.

Of the 426 S&P companies that have reported so far, about 75% have beaten profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.18-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted five new 52-week highs and seven new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 45 new highs and 67 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7 billion shares, compared to the 6.74 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell