Stocks wobble as investors listen for trade deal clues

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks wobbled between small gains and losses in afternoon trading Friday as investors grew more cautious about prospects for a trade deal between the U.S. and China.

The market is still poised for a winning week and major indexes were just below record highs set a day earlier.

Wall Street has been cheering the latest push to sign an agreement before more costly tariffs on a wide range of consumer products go into effect on Dec. 15. Those cheers were muffled late Thursday over reports that U.S. officials are still deliberating the extent of easing tariffs if talks progress.

President Donald Trump injected more uncertainty into the trade issue on Friday when he dismissed a Chinese official’s assertion that the U.S. agreed to roll back some tariffs.

“They’d like to have a rollback,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the Chinese. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

Energy stocks were among the biggest decliners. Exxon Mobil fell 1.7%.

Health care stocks were the biggest gainers. Vertex Pharmaceuticals rose 3.2%.

Walt Disney was a standout among communications companies with solid gains following surprisingly good earnings.

Several other companies rose following solid earnings reports. Energy drink maker Monster Beverage rose 3.3% and Bookings Holdings gained 2.7%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained stable at 1.92%.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was unchanged as of 1 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41 points, or 0.2%, to 27,634. The Nasdaq rose 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.1%. European and Asian markets fell.

WEEK OF RECORDS: The S&P 500 had another solid week of record-setting days. The index closed at an all-time high of 3,085.18 on Thursday, its second record-setting day of the week. It is also on track for its fifth straight week of gains.

The Dow also had a solid week and reached a record of 27,674.80 on Thursday. That was its third record-setting day of the week.

The Nasdaq hit a record of 8,434.68 on Tuesday, its second record this week.

ANALYST’S TAKE: Investors have been pushing indexes to records this week because solid corporate earnings and signs of progress in trade disputes lessened some economic risks.

“The general tone of the market will continue to be very cautiously optimistic,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

The market has mostly stabilized on Friday, he said, as investors look for more signs that risk will continue receding. Kinahan said rising bond yields, particularly the 10-year Treasury’s rise above 1.9%, is a good sign and the next big milestone may be yields rising above 2%.

ROARING MOUSE: Walt Disney rose 3.3% after handily beating Wall Street’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit forecasts on surging revenue because of films including “The Lion King” and “Toy Story 4”. The company also said it received a positive response from a test of its planned streaming service, Disney Plus.

WIDENING GAP: The retailer fell 6.9% after slashing its profit forecast for the year and announcing the resignation of CEO Art Peck. The company has been struggling to turn around a long-standing sales slump and is splitting into two publicly traded companies, one for its Old Navy brand and another for the Gap, Banana Republic and its lesser known brands like Athleta, Intermix and Hill City.

Damian J. Troise, The Associated Press