US stock indexes move lower as investors play defense

U.S. stocks moved broadly lower Thursday as investors pulled back to a defensive stance as an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump moves along and U.S. economic growth slows.

Technology stocks were among the biggest losers. Cisco Systems fell 2.3% and Nvidia shed 1.5%. The sector has been volatile all week amid investor concerns about the U.S.-China trade war and upcoming negotiations in October.

Facebook fell 2.4% and dragged communications stocks lower. The company could find itself the target of another antitrust investigation, this time by the Justice Department, according to Bloomberg.

Energy companies also broadly fell as crude oil prices decline, while banks slipped along with falling bond yields.

Consumer product makers and utilities were among the few sectors making broad gains in a sign that investors were shifting money into lower-risk holdings. Bond prices rose and pulled down the yield on the 10-year Treasury to 1.69% from 1.73% late Wednesday.

The U.S. congressional inquiry into President Trump is throwing more volatility into an already sensitive market, particularly on trade issues. U.S. and Chinese representatives are expected to meet next month to negotiate a way out of the economically damaging feud.

Chinese importers have set deals to buy American soybeans and pork as the governments make conciliatory gestures ahead of trade talks and Trump has suggested a trade deal could happen soon. But, investors remain cautious.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at a modest 2% in the second quarter, a sharply lower pace than the 3%-plus growth rates seen over the past year.

Outside of trade and politics, investors are getting ready for the close of the third quarter and more corporate earnings reports.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.6% as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 142 points, or 0.5%, to 26,830. The Nasdaq fell 0.9%.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe and Asia moved broadly higher on a relatively quiet day for international economic news. Japan and the U.S. signed a deal covering agricultural, industrial and digital trade, but it kept auto tariffs unchanged.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued sparring with Parliament over the U.K.’s upcoming departure from the European Union. The nation is set to leave the trading bloc Oct. 31 and has yet to make a deal with European nations on trade and other issues.

TAKING A DIP: The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are each on track for their second straight weekly loss as volatile trading around trade issues takes its toll. The late September slide has been cutting into quarterly gains for the S&P 500 and all but erased the Nasdaq’s third-quarter gain.

BUSTED RUDDER: Carnival slumped 8.5% after the cruise line operator cut its 2019 profit forecast because of a spike in fuel costs. Crude oil prices have risen more than 23% this year on mix of high supplies and tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

FEEDING INVESTORS: Conagra Brands rose 4.4% after the food maker reported a surprisingly good first quarter profit. The company cited a solid sales increase in frozen foods and a benefit from last year’s purchase of Pinnacle Foods.

GREEN ARCHES: Beyond Meat jumped 9.5% as McDonald’s started selling the company’s plant-based burger in Ontario. The world’s largest burger chain will offer the PLT, or the plant, lettuce and tomato burger, for 12 weeks in 28 locations in Southwestern Ontario by the end of the month. The move pits Beyond Meat and McDonald’s against Burger King, which is selling a plant-based Impossible Foods burger at its locations.

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