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Stocks struggle for direction ahead of Fed decision

Posted at 7:08 AM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-29 16:22:22-04

Stocks were lost for direction on Monday, with the Dow ending in positive territory and the S&P 500 closing lower.

Just Friday, the blue-chip S&P 500 closed at a record high, as did the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite.

But only the Dow eked out a small gain on Monday, finishing up 0.1%, or 29 points. The index is now 0.5% off its most recent all-time higher.

The S&P ended down 0.2% and the Nasdaq closed 0.4% lower.

It’s set to be a busy week for investors, with the Federal Reserve at the top of their watch list. The central bank is kicking off its July meeting on Tuesday, which will culminate in its interest rate decision on Wednesday at 2 pm ET.

Expectations for a rate cut have been fully priced in for weeks. The chances of a quarter-percentage-point cut are at 76%, according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

Investors are trapped between the hope for rate cuts — which would make it cheaper for companies to borrow — and recent better-than-expected economic data that calls into question whether a growth-boosting rate cut is really necessary.

But first: trade. US trade representatives are in Shanghai for a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday with their Chinese peers.

“If we see promises from the Chinese to deliver on more purchases of US agricultural goods and for the US to allow American companies to sell some goods to Huawei, the meetings would be viewed as positive,” wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a research note.

Since the G-20 summit in Japan last month, China and the US have vowed not to slap additional tariffs on each other’s imports. But the trade spat still remains far from resolved.