Uncertainty over whether the United States and China could resolve their long-running trade dispute increased after the US House of Representatives riled Beijing by passing pro-democracy legislation in support of Hong Kong.
President Donald Trump said he would probably not sign any trade deal before he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC Forum in Chile, but said a partial trade deal was being formalised.
“Part of today’s market action concerns whether the tentative (trade) agreement reached last Friday will move forward or not,” Tuz said. “We’ve got two months before significant tariffs go into effect.”
“Things haven’t worked out the way they usually do when earnings season begins and you focus less on the global macro issues that drive the market so much these days.”
Analysts currently expect S&P 500 third-quarter earnings to have fall by 3 per cent, which would mark the first year-on-year contraction since the earnings recession that ended in 2016.
However, of the 43 S&P 500 companies to have posted third-quarter results so far, 86 per cent have come in better than consensus expectations.
Bank of America rose 2.2 per cent after posting its third-quarter profit beat due to growth in advisory fees and loan book expansion.
United Airlines advanced 2.6 per cent after the airline beat quarterly profit estimates and increased its 2019 guidance.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18.19 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 27,042.99, the S&P 500 lost 3.71 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 2,991.97 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 25.20 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 8,123.51.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, three were trading in negative territory, with energy and tech suffering the largest percentage losses.
In other stocks news, Eli Lilly & Co dropped 1.5 per cent in the wake of a late-stage study which showed its experimental pancreatic cancer treatment failed to meet the overall survival goal.
Drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health rose between 3 per cent and 6 per cent following a report that they were in talks with state and local governments to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits for $US18 billion.
General Motors rose 1.5 per cent after the automaker reached a tentative labor deal with the United Auto Workers union.
Netflix shares were up 0.3 per cent ahead of its earnings report, expected after the bell.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.09-to-1 ratio flavoured decliners.