* Trump-Xi meeting pushed to at least April - Bloomberg
* U.S. new home sales fall more than expected in Jan
* Apple rises as Cowen starts with “outperform”
* Facebook slips after 17-hour partial outage
* Trade sensitive Caterpillar, Boeing dip
* Indexes up: Dow 0.04 pct, S&P 0.01 pct, Nasdaq 0.04 pct (Updates to afternoon)
By Amy Caren Daniel
March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks flitted between gains and losses on Thursday as uncertainty over when a trade deal between the United States and China would be reached clouded sentiment.
Wall Street’s main indexes briefly moved higher after President Donald Trump said the United States was doing very well in trade talks with China, but could not say whether a final deal would be reached.
His comments come after a Bloomberg report that a meeting between Trump and China’s Xi Jinping to sign an agreement to end their trade dispute would be pushed to April, at the earliest.
“Trade is the single biggest thing that markets are focusing on. You see indexes moving between slight gains and losses as investors don’t know how to read the mixed signals on trade,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.
Chipmakers, which rely on China for a large portion of their revenue also lost ground with the Philadelphia SE chip index off 0.12 percent.
Boeing, the single largest U.S. exporter to China, slipped 0.7 percent. The world’s largest planemaker had its own troubles this week after its money-spinning 737 MAX jets were grounded globally following a recent fatal crash in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report showed sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell more than expected in January, suggesting the housing market weakness persisted early in the first quarter.
The PHLX housing index dipped 0.16 percent on the news, while the broader real estate sector declined 0.3 percent.
Downbeat housing data follows tame inflation reports this week which underscored the Federal Reserve’s patient stance on future interest rate hikes and helped the S&P and Nasdaq post three consecutive session of gains.
Apple Inc rose 1.2 percent, extending a four-day winning streak, after brokerage Cowen and Co started coverage with an “outperform” rating. An Apple-led technology rally has propped markets recently.
At 12:55 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 11.42 points, or 0.04 percent, at 25,714.31. The S&P 500 was up 0.16 points, or 0.01 percent, at 2,811.08 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.71 points, or 0.04 percent, at 7,646.12.
UK lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a motion that ruled out a potentially disorderly “no-deal” Brexit, though another crucial vote to delay leaving the European Union is pending on Thursday evening.
Facebook Inc dropped 1.72 percent after a 17-hour partial outage made the world’s largest social network inaccessible to users across the globe, driving a wave of online complaints.
Johnson & Johnson slipped 1 percent after a California jury awarded $29 million to a woman who said that asbestos in the company’s talcum-powder-based products caused her cancer.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.08-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.12-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 36 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 29 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)