US close: Stocks end session lower as trade remains in focus
US stocks closed lower on Thursday as trade headlines continued to stream in.
At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.20% at 27,766.29, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.16% to 3,103.54 and the Nasdaq Composite saw out the session 0.24% weaker at 8,506.21.
The Dow Industrials closed 54.80 points lower on Thursday following on from declines in the previous session as a result of uncertainty regarding the possibility of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing being reached mounted.
Federal Reserve officials agreed to not cut interest rates again unless economic conditions change significantly, according to minutes released overnight from their most recent meeting.
The minutes revealed that "most" Federal Open Market Committee members saw the moves as being sufficient enough to "support the outlook of moderate growth, a strong labour market, and inflation near the Committee's symmetric 2% objective".
With the FOMC minutes released, the market was mainly looking toward trade headlines for direction on Thursday, with the ongoing uncertainty as to whether or not a phase one deal can be reached seemingly suggesting that volatility will remain elevated.
A report from the Wall Street Journal indicated that China apparently had invited American negotiators to Beijing for a fresh round of trade talks during a phone call thought to have been made late last week. It was not clear if Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had accepted Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's invitation.
The report came shortly after US legislation on Hong Kong had threatened to derail trade discussions.
On the data front, according to the Department of Labor, initial jobless claims for the week ending on 16 November were unchanged from the week before at 227,000 (consensus: 219,000).
Offsetting that miss, the Philadelphia Fed's regional business outlook index for November printed at 10.4 - up from a reading of 5.6 for the previous month and ahead of estimates of a 7.0 reading.
Elsewhere, the National Association of Realtors said on Thursday that existing home sales rose 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46m units last month.
Economists polled had forecast existing home sales rising just 1.4% to 5.47m.
In the corporate space, US retailer Macy's shares were on the back foot following a surprise profit warning on Thursday morning and the group's first decline in same-store sales for two years.