Tech stocks drop, canceling out gains by energy companies

US stocks wobbled between gains and losses then finished with a split decision Wednesday as technology companies dropped. That canceled out gains for energy companies.

Oil and gasoline prices continued to rise after a big gain on Tuesday, and US crude reached its highest price in two months. Chip makers fell, and Apple slipped after announcing new features for iPhones and Apple Watches.

The market staged a brief rally around midday following a report the United States was seeking new trade talks with China. Stocks climbed, but they retreated to their earlier levels in less than an hour.


Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist for Invesco, said investors have learned from earlier trade updates that didn’t amount to much.

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‘‘Every other time this has happened, it wasn’t worth the positive market move,’’ she said. ‘‘Investors . . . are a lot more skeptical this time around, having been burned a few times with false optimism about positive trade developments.’’

The S&P 500 index edged up 1.03 points to 2,888.92. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.1 percent, to 25,998.92.

The losses for technology companies weighed on the Nasdaq Composite, which slipped 0.2 percent, to 7,954.23. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 0.2 percent to 1,715.70.

Most stocks on the New York Stock Exchange finished higher.


Oil prices built on Tuesday’s gains after the Energy Information Administration said US crude stockpiles fell by more than 5 million barrels last week. The prospect of tighter supplies and higher prices also helped energy company stocks.

Benchmark US oil climbed 1.6 percent to $70.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, added 0.9 percent to $79.74 in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 percent to $2.03 a gallon. It jumped almost 3 percent the day before.

Goldman Sachs analyst Mark Delaney downgraded Micron Technology stock to ‘‘neutral’’ and said he expects weaker market conditions for several types of computer chips.

Micron fell 4.3 percent; Nvidia slipped 1.7 percent.

Apple unveiled new iPhones with larger screens and said new Apple Watches will have larger screens and new health-monitoring features. Apple tends to trade lower on the days it announces new products, and the stock fell 1.2 percent Wednesday. It’s up 31 percent in 2018, however.


As the Apple Watch updates were announced, shares of the fitness tracker company Fitbit slumped 6.9 percent in heavy trading.

According to The Wall Street Journal, US officials recently proposed a new round of trade negotiations to give the Chinese government another chance to address US concerns before the Trump administration imposes bigger tariffs on goods from China.

The two countries have already placed new taxes on $50 billion in imports, and the government is threatening higher tariffs on $200 billion in goods.

Many experts feel that China will make substantial concessions to resolve the trade impasse, and some are hoping for major progress over the next few months.

But Hooper of Invesco said she doesn’t think China is about to give in. She said the Chinese government is preparing for a long dispute by ramping up spending, and notes that unlike US politicians, Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn’t have to worry about facing voters.

Cigarette makers jumped after the Food and Drug Administration said it is looking at steps to combat ‘‘an epidemic’’ of e-cigarette use by teenagers and that companies need to address the problem or risk having their flavored products pulled off the market.

Altria Group surged 6.7 percent, its largest gain in just under a decade. Philip Morris International rose 3.4 percent. Overseas rivals like British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands also jumped.

The Labor Department said wholesale prices unexpectedly dipped in August, the first decline in a year and a half — a sign inflation pressures could be easing. The agency’s producer prices index slipped 0.1 percent in August, though it’s up 2.8 percent over the last year.

The department said transportation and warehousing service prices fell for the month.

The dollar weakened and interest rates dipped, which put pressure on bank stocks and boosted commodities prices. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.96 percent from 2.98 percent.

The dollar fell to 111.22 yen from 111.59 yen. The euro rose to $1.1632 from $1.1586.