October 14, 2019 / 6:37 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street takes a breather after trade talks, eyes on earnings

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* Mnuchin sees extra tariffs in Dec if deal not signed

* China seeking more talks before signing deal

* Nike, 3M biggest boost on the Dow

* Harley-Davison halts production of e-bikes

* Indexes up: Dow 0.13%, S&P 500 0.02%, Nasdaq 0.07% (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline, byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Wall Street struggled for direction on Monday as inconclusive U.S.-China trade negotiations dampened sentiment and investors turned toward third-quarter earnings season, which begins in earnest on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was essentially flat, while the Nasdaq and the Dow were nominally higher following a three-day winning streak during which the benchmark S&P 500 gained 2.7%.

Hopes dimmed that recent trade negotiations between the United States and China would bear fruit, as China indicated further talks were needed and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the next round of tariffs on Chinese imports are on track to go into effect on Dec. 15 if a deal has not been reached by then.

And while U.S. President Donald Trump hailed his phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade deal “by far, the biggest deal ever made,” no deal was committed to paper and most tariffs on Chinese imports remain in effect.

“Investors are reverting to what truly matters which is corporate profits, digesting Friday’s gains and now looking towards the earnings season,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “It’s not surprising that markets are on hold.”

Third-quarter reporting season bursts through the starting gate on Tuesday, with major U.S. banks expected to report a 1.2% decline in earnings, their first year-on-year drop in three years, due in part to low interest rates and trade tensions.

Analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to have contracted in the third quarter by 3.2%, according to Refinitiv data, marking the first decrease since the earnings recession that ended in 2016.

That’s down from the 12.1% gain seen a year ago and the 0.8% advance forecast last quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 34.96 points, or 0.13%, to 26,851.55, the S&P 500 gained 0.73 points, or 0.02%, to 2,971 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.48 points, or 0.07%, to 8,062.51.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, five were trading in the red, with utilities suffering the largest percentage loss.

Shares of Harley-Davidson Inc after halting production of its electric bikes after discovering a glitch in final quality checks. The motorcycle maker’s stock was up 0.4%.

Fastenal Co was down 1.9% after two brokerages downgraded the stock. The company had logged its best day in three decades on Friday after reporting strong results.

Nike Inc advanced 1.2% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded the sportswear maker’s stock to “neutral” from “underperform”.

Construction and engineering company AECOM gained 6.2% after agreeing to sell its management services unit to private equity firms for about $2.4 billion.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.28-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.42-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted two new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 97 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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