After initially showing a lack of direction, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Tuesday. The choppy trading comes after the major averages closed modestly lower in the two previous sessions.

Currently, the major averages are posting modest gains. The Dow is up 51.08 points or 0.3 percent at 20,701.29, the Nasdaq is up 3.46 points or 0.1 percent at 5,898.14 and the S&P 500 is up 0.86 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 2,359.70.

Traders seem reluctant to make significant moves ahead of some key events later this week, including the release of the closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Traders are also likely to keep a close eye on the release of the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday, looking for clues about the outlook for interest rates.

Additionally, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to hold their first meeting later this week.

In economic news, the Commerce Department released a report showing that the U.S. trade deficit narrowed by more than expected in the month of February.

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit narrowed to $43.6 billion in February from a revised $48.2 billion in January.

Economists had expected the deficit to narrow to $44.8 billion from the $48.5 billion originally reported for the previous month.

The narrower trade deficit came as the value of exports edged up by 0.2 percent to $192.9 billion, while the value of imports tumbled by 1.8 percent to $236.4 billion.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed a continued increase in factory orders in the month of February.

The Commerce Department said factory orders jumped by 1.0 percent in February after surging up by a revised 1.5 percent in January. The increase in orders matched economist estimates.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors continue to show only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Steel stocks have shown a strong move to the upside, however, with the NYSE Arca Steel Index climbing by 1.5 percent. Schnitzer Steel (SCHN) and Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) are posting notable gains.

Considerable strength has also emerged among natural gas stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent advance by the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index. Southwestern Energy (SWN) is leading the sector higher.

Railroad and gold stocks are also seeing some strength in mid-day trading, while airline and semiconductor stocks have moved to the downside on the day.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Tuesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.9 percent, while Australia’s All Ordinaries Index edged down by 0.2 percent. Markets in China remained closed on the day.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both crept by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have pulled back near the unchanged line after seeing early strength. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by less than a basis point at 2.357 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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