Stocks moved slightly lower in early trading on Wall Street as losses for energy and industrial companies offset another set of gains for retailers.
The mostly wobbly trading follows a listless day as investors look for direction. Disappointing economic reports, uncertainty over trade issues and fears of a slowdown in economic growth have been weighing on the market.
U.S. businesses added a solid 183,000 jobs in February, according to a private survey by payroll processor ADP, but that was less than the 188,000 that analysts expected. The trade deficit jumped 19 percent in December, widening the figure to a decade-long high of $621 billion.
The market has been swayed in recent days by hopes that the U.S. and China will resolve their trade dispute. Media reports are back-and-forth on both sides being close to a deal that would pull back on tariffs, and alternately hitting a rough spot on some key items.
General Electric fell 3 percent after the conglomerate’s CEO said it will be left with no extra funds in 2019. Exxon Mobil fell 2.7 percent after the energy company said it would increase spending.
Retail stocks are rising for the second day. Abercrombie & Fitch surged after reporting results that were much better than analysts expected.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,788 as of 10 a.m. The S&P 500 index fell 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent.
RETAIL RISES AGAIN: A solid fourth quarter and forecast pushed shares of Abercrombie & Fitch 17 percent higher. The retailer beat an important industry sales measure on gains at its Hollister brand.
The beat by Abercrombie comes a day after Target and Kohl’s reported solid earnings and forecasts. The strong results came as a pleasant surprise for investors, considering that overall retail sales fell broadly in December.
Among other retailers, Tailored Brands rose 6 percent and Dollar Tree rose 2 percent.