Stocks cling to tiny gains as investors parse trade signals

Major U.S. stock indexes closed mixed Tuesday, shedding most of their gains from earlier in the day, after a published report revealed that an interim trade deal between the U.S. and China does not remove tariffs on Chinese goods.

The benchmark S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite finished slightly off their record highs from a day earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched a slight gain. Small-company stocks rose.

Technology stocks accounted for much of the selling. The sector is particularly sensitive to developments in trade relations because many of the companies rely on China for sales and supply chains.

Investors also bid up shares in several big banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Citibank, after the companies reported surprisingly good quarterly results.

The market’s late-afternoon burst of selling came a day before the U.S. and China were due to sign a preliminary trade agreement in Washington. Optimism that the deal will bring the two economic powerhouses closer to ending the dispute threatening global economic growth has helped drive markets higher for weeks.

Still, reports suggesting that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will remain in place until at least after this year’s election appeared to dim some investors’ enthusiasm over the deal.

“Would the market be more satisfied with a reduction in those tariffs? Absolutely,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. “Nonetheless, you don’t want to have an escalation in the tariff war. That was the most important thing for the market.”

The S&P 500 index fell 4.98 points, or 0.2%, to 3,283.15. The index had been up as much as 0.2% earlier. The Nasdaq slid 22.60 points, or 0.2%, to 9,251.33.

The Dow rose 32.62 points, or 0.1%, to 28,939.67. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 6.14 points, or

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