Stocks wobble in early trading as investors focus on trade

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks wobbled between small gains and losses in early trading Monday as investors waited for the latest updates about trade negotiations and the economy.

Wall Street is particularly focused on developments in the trade war ahead of a new round of tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese imports due to take effect on Sunday. That would raise prices on key products, including cellphones and laptops, and threaten to affect consumers.

A Chinese official said Monday that the nation wants a prompt settlement, but gave no details on progress toward a potential deal. China made a conciliatory gesture last week when it said it would waive tariffs on American soybeans and pork.

Gains from communications companies were offset by losses from energy and health care stocks. Charter Communications rose 1% and Marathon Petroleum fell 2.5%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.82% from 1.84% late Friday, though banks held steady.

Several old-guard pharmaceutical companies made moves to buy younger biotechnology companies. Merck slipped less than 1% after announcing the buyout of ArQule and Sanofi also slid less than 1% after saying it will by Synthorx.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.1% as of 10:03 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 24 points, or 0.1%, to 27,990. The Nasdaq rose 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rose slightly.

European markets edged lower and Asian markets rose.

WEEK AHEAD: Wall Street is in for a busy week of economic reports culminating in a key update on whether Americans are still spending at a healthy pace.

Investors will get a revised report on worker productivity for the July-September quarter on Tuesday. Data released in November showed a decline for the first time since late 2015.

On Wednesday the government will release its November report for consumer prices, which have been rising at a modest rate this year. A gauge on producer prices will be released on Thursday.

The Commerce Department’s report on retail sales coming up Friday is possibly the most important update this week. The economy has been propped up in part by solid spending and job growth.

FED WATCH: The Federal Reserve is meeting this week to discuss monetary policy but is widely expected hold off on making any changes. The central bank has cut interest rates three times this year in a sharp reversal from 2018 in an effort to buttress economic growth.

The rate cuts have injected more confidence into the market. The Fed has signalled that it will hold off on any additional rate cuts as long as the economy remains healthy.

Damian J. Troise, The Associated Press