Wall Street ekes out gains; global growth worries linger

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks edged higher on Monday, pulling back from their session lows, as shares of industrial and consumer discretionary companies rose, but gains were kept in check by worries of a global slowdown.

Weak factory data from the United States, Europe and Japan on Friday triggered a sell-off in U.S. equities and also led to the inversion of U.S. Treasury yield curve for the first time since 2007.

Yields on U.S. 10-year treasury yields rose slightly on Monday after data showed German business morale improved unexpectedly in March, but spreads between U.S. three-month and 10-year Treasury yields modestly inverted as the session progressed.

An inverted yield curve is widely seen as a leading indicator of recession.

“Earnings and rates drive the markets and we are in a position where the rates are falling and the Fed has basically told you that the economy is slowing down, so you have to be wary of earnings,” said Dave Ellison, portfolio manager at Hennessy Funds in Boston.

The Federal Reserve last week decided not to raise interest rates this year in a wholesale shift in its outlook.

“Tech stocks are being hit due to a slowing economy and people don’t want to pay a high price for an industry whose growth is probably slowing,” Ellison added.

Apple Inc’s 0.3 percent drop weighed the most on the technology sector.

The iPhone maker is widely expected to launch its video streaming service at an event later in the day.

The consumer discretionary sector rose 0.82 percent, supported by gains in Home Depot Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Investors largely shrugged off Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that President Donald Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia, despite S&P 500 futures initially rising on Sunday.

The report left unresolved the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice by undermining the investigations that have dogged his presidency.

At 11:39 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 71.89 points, or 0.28 percent, at 25,574.21, the S&P 500 was up 5.04 points, or 0.18 percent, at 2,805.75 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 9.98 points, or 0.13 percent, at 7,652.65.

Top U.S. officials travel to Beijing for the latest round of high-level talks, which are scheduled to start on March 28.

Boeing Co rose 1.4 percent, helping lift the industrial sector by 0.55 percent.

The planemaker said it would brief pilots and regulators this week on software and training updates for its 737 MAX aircraft, with Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways expressing confidence in the company despite a recent crash.

Akamai Technologies fell 3.4 percent, the most on the S&P, after a report that brokerage Deutsche Bank had downgraded the stock to “sell” from “hold”.

Viacom Inc’s shares rose 6.6 percent, the most on the S&P, after the company renewed a contract with AT&T Inc to continue carrying its services. AT&T shares 0.6 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.23-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded four new 52-week highs and six new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 17 new highs and 86 new lows.

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