Stocks Lacking Direction Early Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks swayed between small gains and losses in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors closely watched for any developments in U.S. trade disputes.

The muted trading follows two days of gains driven by investors betting that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates this year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the central bank would "act as appropriate" if trade disputes with China and Mexico threatened the U.S. economic expansion.

Mexican and American officials have both claimed progress in talks being held this week in Washington, but President Donald Trump said Thursday that a "lot of progress" must be made to halt the initial 5% import taxes set to go into effect June 10.

The trade disputes threaten to stifle economic growth in the U.S. and globally. Investors have been mostly fleeing to safer investments, like bonds and gold, because of the uncertainty surrounding negotiations.

Energy stocks led the gains, recouping some ground from a broad sell-off a day earlier. Exxon rose 1.6% and Chevron rose 1.7%.

Consumer staples were also among the gainers, with cigarette makers making notable gains. Altria rose 2.7% and Philip Morris rose 1.6%.

Industrial stocks were the biggest decliners. FedEx fell 1.3% and Robert Half also declined 1.3%.

Banks also fell broadly, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America.

A smattering of earnings results helped move some stocks. Technology company Ciena and personal stylist company Stitch Fix surged on solid results. Arts and crafts retailer Michaels plunged on weak results.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.1% as of 10:15 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 8 points, or .03%, to 25,549. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2%.

CRUDE CRAFTS: Arts and crafts retailer Michaels plunged 13% after sales at established stores fell more sharply than Wall Street had forecast. The company also trimmed its full year profit forecast.

Michaels said the surprisingly sharp drop in the key sales measure was due to a decrease in transactions, even though there was an increase in the average amount purchased by individual customers.

LOOKING GOOD: Stitch Fix shares surged 19.3% after the online clothing styling service surprised investors with a fiscal third quarter profit.

Revenue surged and also beat analysts' forecasts as the company notched a 17% increase in active clients. The company works by taking a client's style profile, which is then used by a personal stylist to handpick clothing items and accessories. The client then receives a box of items to try on and either keep or return.

STRONG CONNECTION: Ciena shares jumped 23.4% after the developer of high-speed networking technology beat Wall Street's fiscal second quarter financial forecasts.

Both profit and revenue beat forecasts on growth from the networking platforms and in North America.

(CZ)