Stocks ended a choppy session higher Thursday as investors considered mixed commentary around U.S.-China trade prospects.
Here’s where markets settled Thursday at the end of regular trading:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +0.15%, or 4.68 points
Dow (^DJI): +0.1%, or 28.01 points
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +0.05%, or 4.03 points
10-year Treasury yield (^TNX): +2.1 bps to 1.802%
Gold (GC=F): +0.07% to $1,481.20 per ounce
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said trade negotiations with China were “moving along well,” according to Bloomberg. This compounded with positive remarks on Wednesday, when Trump told reporters from a NATO meeting in London that discussions were “going very well” with China, according to Reuters.
Beijing, for its part, corroborated the more upbeat sentiment, with Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng saying at a regular weekly briefing Thursday that Chinese negotiators remained in “close contact” with their U.S. counterparts. Gao reiterated, however, that a phase one trade deal should include some reduction in tariffs, according to Bloomberg.
Negotiators have 10 days before additional tariffs on about $156 billion worth of Chinese goods are set to take effect, as previously announced by the Trump administration. Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested the administration would go ahead with these further levies in absence of an agreement with Beijing by Dec. 15.
Separately, oil prices added to Wednesday’s gains as members of OPEC and allied nations (OPEC+) met to discuss their plans for output next year. Members of the cartel, who are set to meet in Vienna, Austria on Thursday and Friday, are expected to agree to deeper production cuts for next year from their current level of reduction of 1.2 million barrels per day, which expires at the end of March. Thursday morning, Bloomberg reported that the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of OPEC was recommending a reduction of 500,000 barrels per day.
The oil minister of Iraq had said earlier this week that he and other nations would support a cut to production for next year of around 400,000 barrels a day. Brent crude oil prices, the global benchmark, rose to more than $63 a barrel, while domestic crude was unchanged at $58.43 a barrel from Wednesday at settlement.
Over the past two years, OPEC+ has steadily pared back output in order to offset rising production in non-allied nations like Brazil, Norway, and the U.S., where shale oil output has boomed.
EARNINGS: Tiffany sales sink in home market, Slack tops expectations
Slack (WORK), the newly public workplace messaging software company, delivered stronger than expected third-quarter results. However, its outlook for billings – which reflects its software sales to new customers, renewals and added sales from existing customers – disappointed the Street.
The company’s third-quarter loss per share was 2 cents on revenue of $168.7 million, better than the 16 cent loss per share on revenue of $156.2 million expected, according to Bloomberg data. Slack ended the quarter with more than 105,000 customers, up by 30% over last year.
For the full year, Slack expects to see billings of between $745 million and $760 million, with the midpoint of this range coming below the $754.3 million expected. But Slack also raised full-year sales guidance to as much as $623 million, up by $13 million on the high end of its previous range. It expects an adjusted loss per share in the fourth quarter of as much as 7 cents, in-line with expectations.
Tiffany (TIF) posted disappointing third-quarter results as North American sales weakened further for the jeweler. The company recently announced it was set to be acquired by French luxury retail giant LVMH (MC.PA).
Third-quarter earnings per share were 65 cents on net sales of $1.01 billion, below the 85 cents a share on sales of $1.03 billion expected. Comparable same-store sales in the Americas sank 4% during the quarter, or worse than the decline of just 0.9% expected. Tiffany attributed this mostly to lower spending by foreign tourists, as well as some softness in local customer spending.
Asia remained a strong geographic segment for the company, however, with Asia Pacific comp sales rising 1%, and sales in Japan jumping 14%, versus a 3.8% gain expected. Comp sales in Europe also unexpectedly rose 4%, where a decline of 0.7% was expected.
Dollar General (DG) raised its full-year earnings guidance and posted accelerating sales growth and shrugged off some of the tariff concerns that plagued peer discount retailer Dollar Tree in its most recent quarter.
Dollar General’s net sales totaled $6.99 billion, rising 9% over last year and beating expectations for $6.92 billion. Third-quarter earnings per share were $1.42, or 4 cents above expectations. The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings guidance to as much as $6.65 a share, versus a previous outlook for as much as $6.60 a share.
ECONOMY: Jobless claims unexpectedly decline to lowest level since April
New unemployment claims fell by 10,000 to 203,000 for the week ended November 30, the Department of Labor said Thursday, in a strong final report on the U.S. labor market ahead of the “official” monthly November jobs report Friday.
Thursday’s print marked the lowest number of new jobless claims since mid-April. Consensus economist had expected initial jobless claims to rise to 215,000 for the week, according to Bloomberg data.
Continuing unemployment claims, however, rose more than expected to 1.693 million for the week ended November 23. Consensus economist had expected this to come in at 1.66 million, from an upwardly revised 1.642 million the week prior.
The U.S. trade deficit shrank to the narrowest level since May 2018 in October as trade with China slumped further, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The overall trade deficit came in at $47.2 billion for the month, versus the $48.5 billion expected. September’s trade deficit was revised slightly to $51.1 billion from $51.5 billion reported previously.
October’s decline in the deficit was driven by a 1.7% drop in imports, eclipsing a slight 0.2% decline in exports. Consumer goods imports were the main contributor to the drop, and merchandise imports from China fell 4.8% over the previous month to $35.3 billion. Exports to China sank 17%. The overall U.S. trade deficit with China declined to a seven-month low of $27.8 billion, seasonally adjusted.
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck
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