Stocks edge lower as tariff threat hits tech stocks

NEW YORK — Stocks wobbled Tuesday as large high-dividend stocks rose and smaller companies sank. Major indexes were coming off big gains the day before.

Big health care companies including Johnson & Johnson rallied, as did telecommunications and household goods makers. Steel and other materials makers skidded, and a steep loss for United Technologies pulled defense contractors lower.

Technology companies rose even though President Donald Trump said he expects more tariffs on goods imported from China, some of which would hit products like computers and smartphones. Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this week.

“It is not unexpected that the administration would ramp up their threats moving into that meeting,” said Tracie McMillion, head of global asset allocation for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. She said trading will probably be volatile for the rest of the week, but stocks are likely to rise if the two sides are able to strike even a very general agreement.

The S&P 500 index rose 8.75 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,682.20. The index jumped 1.6 percent Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 108.49 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,748.73. The Nasdaq composite inched up 0.85 points to 7,082.80 after surging 2.1 percent a day earlier.

With two months of volatility on investors’ minds and more likely to come, Wall Street gravitated toward safer, high-dividend communications, utility and consumer goods companies. Verizon gained 2.5 percent to $60.65, Public Service Enterprise Group climbed 1.5 percent to $54.29 and cigarette maker Altria Group rose 1.1 percent to $53.79 as tobacco companies recovered some of their recent losses.

Smaller companies, especially in heavy industry and retail, took steeper losses. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 13.10 points, or 0.9 percent, to

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