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Stocks end choppy day slightly lower amid trade jitters

Vincent Pepe enjoys some fresh air outside

 Vincent Pepe enjoys some fresh air outside the NYSE on April 16.  Photo Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

Stock indexes closed slightly lower Thursday after a day of mostly choppy trading, wiping out some of the market's gains from a day earlier.

Technology stocks took some of the worst losses. Fast-food chains and other consumer-focused companies, utilities and banks also declined, outweighing gains in energy and industrial stocks. Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market.

The indexes veered solidly into the red by late afternoon ahead of a new round of trade talks between the U.S. and China.

"Now that we're making it out of earnings season, geopolitical is going to come back into the forefront of what the market's concerns are," said Shawn Cruz, manager of trader strategy at TD Ameritrade. "And that may continue to drive intraday volatility until we get more certainty as far as what is actually going to come out of these trade talks."

The S&P 500 index slipped 2.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,720.13. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 54.95 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,713.98. The drop pulled the Dow into the red for the year. The Nasdaq composite fell 15.82 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,382.47.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks bucked the downward trend, setting an all-time high for the second day in a row. The index picked up 8.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,625.29.

Small-cap companies tend to be more focused on business in the U.S., rather than overseas, which may make them more attractive to investors worried about a trade war or rising interest rates.

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