Market Snapshot: S&P 500 aims for fifth straight gain as tech, financials advance

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U.S. stock-market indexes traded slightly lower on Wednesday as investors contend with a fresh round of tariff clashes between the Trump administration and China, which helped to knock Asian markets lower.

Equities have remained mostly buoyant over recent sessions, supported by strong corporate quarterly results and economic data that underlined a healthy economy in its ninth year of expansion.

How are main benchmarks performing?

The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.02% slipped 4 points, or 0.1%, to 2,854, trading less than 1% from its all-time high hit on Jan. 26. Closing lower would mean putting a halt to a four-day uninterrupted advance.

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.04% declined 17 points, or 0.2%, to 7,866, also on track to break its six-day winning streak, that took the benchmark within 50 points of it record close set on July 25.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.17% was off by 30 points, or 0.1%, to 25,598.

What’s driving the market?

Investors have wrestled with trade worries over the past several weeks, but tensions between Washington and Beijing have mostly taken a back seat to a bevy of corporate results that have helped to bolster Wall Street’s bull case, underpinning appetite for assets perceived as risky, like stocks.

Thus far, with more than 80% of corporations reporting quarterly results, S&P 500 components have produced earnings growth of 24% and sales gains of 9.8%, according to FactSet data. Those earnings have helped to bolster the belief that a steady U.S. economic expansion will continue, despite heightened tariff skirmishes with China.

On Tuesday, the U.S. completed a list of $16 billion in Chinese imports that will be subject to 25% tariffs. That brings duties on Chinese imports, which are set to take effect Aug. 23, to $50 billion. And U.S. officials have said they are considering duties on $200 billion more.

Beijing officials have said they would respond by imposing retaliatory tariffs on up to $110 billion of U.S. goods.

Tesla Inc.’s TSLA, -1.63% CEO Elon Muck delivered an afternoon jolt to the broader markets on Tuesday after the outspoken entrepreneur said he was considering taking the multibillion-dollar, electric-car maker private, which drove its shares higher after being halted for much of the afternoon.

Read: 6 factors to watch as the bull market pushes itself toward an endurance record

What are market participants saying?

“The S&P 500 recorded gains for a fourth consecutive session, reaching 2,858 — just under the all-time high registered in January,” said Ricardo Evangelista, senior analyst at U.K. based online broker ActivTrades.

“Against the background of corporate-friendly fiscal reforms and strong second-quarter results, investors seem unwilling to let the longest running bull market fizzle-out,” he said.

What economic data are expected?

No major U.S. economic releases are slated for Wednesday. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said solid growth, low unemployment and inflation around a 2% annual rate “calls for” moving interest rates back to normal levels.

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

Which stocks are in focus?

Tesla share fell 2%, after soared 11% to close at $379.57 on Tuesday. Musk said he is considering taking the car maker private at $420 a share and even indicated that he had financing lined up, although some Tesla watchers are questioning the veracity of that claim.

Snap Inc. SNAP, -6.10% stock fell 4.1% after the company issued quarterly guidance for the first time as well as reported a user decline.

Salesforce.com Inc. CRM, +0.42% promoted Chief Operating Officer Keith Block to co-chief executive alongside founder Marc Benioff, the company announced in a surprise move Tuesday night. Shares were little changed.

Walt Disney Co. shares DIS, -1.41%  declined by 1.1% early Wednesday, after the company released a disappointing earnings report Tuesday afternoon.

Shares of Mylan NV MYL, -3.17%  drop 7% after earnings results came in below expectations and as the company evaluates strategic alternatives.

How are other markets performing?

The Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, -1.27% fell 1.3% and the Shenzhen A Share index 399106, -1.90%  dropped 1.9% as the trade battle with the U.S. intensified, coming a day after those benchmarks finished with sharp gains.

The U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate futures CLU8, -3.53% are down 1.4% at $68.23 a barrel. On Tuesday, the Energy Information Administration lowered its forecast on U.S. crude-oil production for both 2018 and 2019.

Gold futures GCZ8, -0.11% tipped 0.2% lower, while the U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.02% edged up by 0.1%.

The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -0.20% was down 0.2%.

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