Stocks Close Slightly Lower Monday

(AP) -- Stocks capped a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street with modest losses Monday, a shaky start to the week for the market after its first weekly gain in a month.

Losses in consumer goods makers, utilities and technology stocks helped outweigh gains in banks and real estate companies. A 2% drop in crude oil prices also hurt energy stocks.

Trading was choppy for much of the day after falling in the early going. The muted trading wiped out some of the gains from a rally on Friday, when investors welcomed signs of progress in the latest round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.

Washington and Beijing agreed to a truce, with the U.S. holding off on tariffs set to kick in this week and China agreeing to buy more farm goods. But the U.S. has yet to cancel plans for more tariffs in December and the nations still have several complicated issues to negotiate, which may have dimmed some of the optimism about a broader trade deal.

"We kind of peeled back the layers and said, 'Hey, was this really a significant trade deal, or was it just a little bit of window dressing to make everybody feel like there was actually a trade deal?'" said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior markets strategist at Voya Investment Management. "The market is digesting that."

The S&P 500 index slipped 4.12 points, or 0.1%, to 2,966.15. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 29.23 points, or 0.1%, to 26,787.36. The Nasdaq gave up 8.39 points, or 0.1%, to 8,048.65.

Small-company stocks did worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index lost 6.47 points, or 0.4%, to 1,505.43.

Bond markets and the U.S. government were closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

Stocks opened broadly lower Monday, but trading soon turned choppy, leaving the market veering between small gains and losses the rest of the day.

The modest pullback followed last week's market rally, when investors applauded the progress made by the U.S. and China following two days of negotiations.

The U.S. agreed to suspend a planned hike in tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods that had been set to kick in Tuesday. Beijing, meanwhile, agreed to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. farm products.

The truce was a result of the 13th round of negotiations between the nations since the trade war began well over a year ago.

But the key sticking points of intellectual property and trade secrets still hang over the dispute. And the overall picture hasn't changed for companies, which are still holding off on forecasts and investments because of the uncertain trade situation.

"There is not yet a viable path to existing tariffs declining and tariff escalation remains a meaningful risk," Michael D. Zezas, a Morgan Stanley strategist, wrote in a note to clients. "Thus, we do not expect a meaningful rebound in corporate behavior that would drive global growth expectations higher."

In a research note sizing up Friday's partial trade deal announcement, J.P.Morgan analysts noted that while the talks have delivered a tentative truce between the two nations, the gap between that truce and peace "could be large, and U.S.-China tension could escalate again, especially into the election period."

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.11 to settle at $53.59 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped $1.16 to close at $59.35 a barrel.

Investors are looking ahead to the start of the third-quarter earnings season, with companies beginning to report results over the next few weeks.

Several major banks are due to issue their latest quarterly financial results this week. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will all report results on Tuesday. Bank of America and PNC Financial will report results on Wednesday.

Investors will be watching for information on income from loans as banks contend with sinking bond yields. Falling yields force banks to set lower rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans.

Expectations for S&P 500 companies' third-quarter results are generally low, with analysts forecasting a drop of 4.2% from a year ago. The results, plus what CEOs say about their spending and revenue forecasts, should give a better picture of the economy's potential direction.

"The market is a little bit nervous about earnings because there are some estimates out there that say there's going to be negative growth," Cavanaugh said, noting she expects overall earnings for the July-September quarter to show growth from a year ago.

Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $1.61 per gallon on Monday. Heating oil declined 4 cents to $1.92 per gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $2.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $9.00 to $1,491.70 per ounce, silver rose 17 cents to $17.63 per ounce and copper was unchanged at $2.62 per pound.

The dollar fell to 108.37 Japanese yen from 108.52 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1031 from $1.1041.

European markets closed lower.