US stocks flat ahead of China talks, Fed minutes

A commuter walks on Wall Street across from the New York Stock Exchange. (Reuters pic)

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks were flat early Tuesday, pausing from the early 2019 equity rally ahead of the latest round of US-China trade talks.

About 30 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 25,874.92 in the first trading session of the week following Monday’s President’s Day holiday when markets were closed.

The broad-based S&P 500 was down less than 0.1% at 2,774.45, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose a hair at 7,474.19.

US-China trade talks were due to resume Tuesday in Washington before high-level meetings later in the week.

A series of tariffs and tariff threat announcements pressured stocks for much of 2018 but investors are increasingly optimistic the two sides will reach a deal to avert a further escalation.

Investors are also eyeing minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, which will be released on Wednesday.

The US central bank shifted to a more dovish posture at the last meeting, further boosting stocks.

The S&P 500 has risen about 18% since Dec 24, a rally that some analysts think could set the stage for profit taking or sideways movement.

Among individual companies, Walmart jumped 3.8% after the retail behemoth reported better-than-expected earnings on a 4.2% surge in US comparable sales in the fourth quarter.