U.S. stocks turned lower Thursday as investors digested headlines suggesting progress toward a U.S.-China trade deal has stalled against the backdrop of weaker-than-expected Chinese data.

The reports come against the backdrop of a grounding of a key Boeing jet and a Brexit saga playing out in the U.K.

See also: Here’s what Wall Street hopes for Boeing in the wake of the 737 Max grounding

How are major indexes performing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average














DJIA, +0.03%












 fell 7 points to 25,695, while the S&P 500 index














SPX, -0.09%












edged down 2 points, or 0.1%, at 2,807 and the Nasdaq Composite Index














COMP, -0.16%












shed 5 points to 7,637.

What’s driving markets?

Disappointing industrial output from China provided more signs that the world’s second-largest economy has continued to decelerate, heightening anxieties about sluggish global growth.

A meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be delayed until at least April, Bloomberg News reported, indicating that a bilateral trade deal will not be finalized this month.

The news comes after Trump told reporters in the White House Wednesday that he was in no rush to strike a trade agreement, and said there remained the possibility that he could walk away, even as he expressed optimism about progress in talks.

Meanwhile, U.K. lawmakers are voting on whether to support another proposal to request an extension, or delay so-called Article 50, Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union date beyond March 29. That would require the unanimous approval of the other 27 EU governments.

Thursday’s vote comes after May lost a vote to push forward her revised Brexit plan by a 149-vote margin and lawmakers on Wednesday ruled out a no-deal exit.

Market participants have closely watched Brexit negotiations because the threat of a disorderly exit from the EU by Britain could roil global markets.

What data are in focus?

The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 6,000 to 229,000 during the week ended March 9, above the 225,000 reading expected by economists polled by MarketWatch.

The price of imported goods rose by 0.6% in February, the largest one-month increase in nine months, the government said Friday. Nevertheless, the 12-month change in import prices remains in negative territory, down 1.3% since last March.

New-home sales fell nearly 7% in January, the Commerce Department said Thursday, to an annual rate of 607,000.

What are strategists saying?

Jay Pestrichelli, chief executive officer at ZEGA Financial, told MarketWatch that the S&P 500 has been bumping up against a key resistance level of around 2,807 the past couple days, reaching a five-month high Wednesday, suggesting that it may be time for stocks to retrace recent gains.

However, looking at the options market tells a different story, Pestrichelli said. “The VIX (CBOE Volatility index) has been telegraphing where the market will go for a while,” noting that the index, which measures fear in the market based on the magnitude of options buying of late, has hit lows not seen since the fall last year. This suggests that many investors feel the market has more room to run from here, he said.

“After a few quiet days outside of Boeing and Brexit to kick off the week, the flow of news is a bit more active this morning,” wrote Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group, in a note to clients.

“Positive sentiment in equity futures has quickly worn off this morning as headlines indicate that the U.S. and China have put off a planned meeting between President Trump and President Xi later this month,” he said. “Sticking points like the treatment of intellectual property remain unresolved. The delay shouldn’t be entirely surprising given the president’s comments just yesterday that he was in no rush to sign a deal.”

Which stocks are in focus?

Boeing Co.














BA, -1.01%












shares fell 0.8% after U.S. regulators grounded 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft in line with similar decisions in other countries.

Facebook Inc.














FB, -1.85%












 shares were off 1.5% after the New York Times reported that a grand jury under the supervision of prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York is undertaking a criminal investigation into the social-media platform’s data-sharing practices.

General Electric Co.














GE, +2.79%












shares rose 2.7% as the company hosted an analyst event and released its 2019 outlook.

Shares of Dollar General Corp.














DG, -7.48%












sank 7.6% after the discount retailer reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit that missed expectations and provided a downbeat earnings and sales outlook.

Johnson & Johnson














JNJ, -0.98%












shares dropped 0.9% after the company was ordered to pay $29 million to a woman dying of cancer. The court determined J&J was liable in the suit, which claimed the cancer — mesothelioma — was caused by the asbestos in the company’s talcum powder, the reports said.

How are other markets trading?

Stock markets in Asia ended lower after data showing that Chinese industrial production slowed more than expected in January and February. The Shanghai Composite














SHCOMP, -1.20%












index fell 1.2%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225














NIK, -0.02%












edged down.

European stocks, meanwhile, rose with the Stoxx Europe 600














SXXP, +0.78%












adding 0.8%.

Crude oil














CLJ9, +0.46%












prices were on pace to extend their three-day winning streak. Gold prices














GCJ9, -1.00%












settled lower, while the U.S. dollar














DXY, +0.31%












rose against peers.

—Mark DeCambre contributed to this report

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