December 10, 2019 / 7:52 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street flat as tariff deadline nears

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* U.S., China planning for delay of Dec 15 tariff - WSJ

* Autozone up after profit beat

* Netflix drops after Needham downgrade

* Focus also on Fed decision on Wednesday

* Dow up 0.01%, S&P 500 down 0.01%, Nasdaq up 0.05% (Updates to midafternoon)

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Wall Street’s main stock indexes were little changed on Tuesday, hovering near record highs, as investors awaited concrete news on whether U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports would take effect on Dec. 15, a potential turning point in the two countries’ trade dispute that has convulsed markets.

Stock futures got a boost in premarket trade when the Wall Street Journal said U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are laying the groundwork for a delay in the tariffs.

A delay would be seen as important in order to pave the way for an initial trade deal, optimism over which has helped fuel the market’s recent run to records.

“The markets are totally holding their breath right now,” said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

“I don’t think that the markets are going to be completely comfortable until there is a line drawn in the sand that says no new tariffs on the 15th,” Richardson said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.84 points, or 0.01%, to 27,913.44, the S&P 500 lost 0.18 points, or 0.01%, to 3,135.78 and the Nasdaq Composite added 4.42 points, or 0.05%, to 8,626.25.

The S&P 500 has climbed 25% so far in 2019, driven by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate cuts earlier this year and some relief over corporate profits, along with improved investor sentiment on trade.

The Fed is due to give its latest policy decision on Wednesday, with the market expecting the central bank to hold interest rates steady.

In another trade-related development, Canada, Mexico and the United States agreed to an overhaul of their quarter-century-old regional trade pact, but stocks largely shrugged off the news.

The agreement was “a foregone conclusion,” Richardson said. “What would have impacted the market is if it didn’t happen.”

Among S&P 500 sectors on Tuesday, technology was the biggest gainer, while real estate and materials lagged the most.

In company news, shares in Autozone Inc jumped 6.9% after the auto parts retailer beat quarterly estimates for profit.

Boeing Co shares dipped 0.5% after the plane maker said it delivered fewer than half as many planes in the first 11 months of 2019 as in the same period a year earlier.

Netflix Inc shares fell 3.3% after a Needham analyst downgraded her rating on the stock and said competition could lead to the loss of 4 million premium U.S. subscribers next year.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.19-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 23 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 67 new highs and 58 new lows. (Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Dan Grebler)

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