NEW YORK — A weak factory orders report sent stocks sideways in midday trading Monday as economists continue to worry that a protracted trade dispute between the U.S. and China could stunt growth.
Concerns over slower economic growth overshadowed a mostly positive January for stocks, with solid corporate earnings helping to offset some of those fears. But the wide miss on factory orders could mean more volatility for stocks.
The U.S. and China ended two days of talks last week in Washington without a deal. Those involved remained optimistic about future meetings, however. Investors hope a deal is reached before a tariffs cease-fire ends on March 2, raising costs on companies and consumers.
Clorox and Sysco rose after beating Wall Street forecasts for their most recent quarters. The gains helped lift consumer staples. Troubled pizza chain Papa John’s surged on an infusion of $200 million and a new board chairman.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 3.7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,710, as of 11:21 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,037. The Nasdaq composite rose 58.9 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,322.
FACTORY FLOP: Orders for new U.S. goods fell in November on lower demand for machinery and electrical equipment. The 0.6 percent drop surprised economists. They had expected a slight increase in orders.
The report is one of many that were delayed by a month-long government shutdown. The long list of missing indicators makes it difficult to gauge the health of the economy and has prompted a cautious outlook from analysts.
The Commerce Department is expected to release various trade data throughout the week and the Federal Reserve will release consumer credit data.
RISING DOUGH: Troubled pizza chain Papa John’s surged on a $200 investment from Starboard Value. Starboard CEO Steve Ritchie is also being named chairman at Papa John’s.
The stock rose 10.7 percent to $42.68
Last week, the Louisville, Kentucky-based company’s stock plunged on reports that Trian Fund Management was no longer interested in a deal. The company also had a weak fourth-quarter. Founder John Schnatter resigned his CEO and chairman positions after a backlash over his comments against NFL protesters and use of a racial slur in a conference call.
PAPER CUTS: The publisher of USA Today and other newspapers rejected a $1.36 billion buyout from a hedge-fund backed media group with a history of taking over newspapers and slashing jobs. MNG Enterprises, better known as Digital First Media, made its unsolicited bid of $12 per share last month.
Digital First has a reputation for stringent, painful cost-cutting. It is one of the biggest U.S. newspaper chains, with about 200 papers and other publications, including The Denver Post and the Boston Herald. Its biggest shareholder is Alden Global Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund that invests in distressed companies.
Gannett’s board said offer undervalued the company and wasn’t in the best interests of the company or its shareholders. It was a unanimous vote. The stock fell 3.4 percent to $10.84.
OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 percent. The CAC 40 in France fell 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent. South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.
ENERGY: U.S. crude fell 1.9 percent to $54.22 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 1 percent to $62.10 per barrel in London. The lower prices follow a round of supply cuts by OPEC in January and more U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.