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After an early rise, stocks waver in afternoon trading

Traders Neal Catania, left, and Benjamin Tuchman work

Traders Neal Catania, left, and Benjamin Tuchman work on the floor of the NYSE on Tuesday.  Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

After a strong start, major stock indexes were wavering between small gains and losses in late-afternoon trading on Wall Street Thursday.

Gains for banks, communication services, big retailers and industrial companies were being offset by weakness in technology and health care stocks.

Citigroup rose 1% and Facebook gained 1.3%. Target climbed 2.5%. Boeing gained 3% as new details were released about the deadly Ethiopian Airlines jet crash. Intuit slid 2.8% and Johnson & Johnson fell 1.3%.

Tesla sank as vehicle deliveries fell sharply in the first quarter. Office Depot plunged after issuing a weak forecast.

Markets have been wobbly throughout the week as investors wait for the government's jobs report on Friday and prepare for a new round of corporate earnings reports next week.

Investors were also keeping a close watch on the latest rounds of U.S.-China trade negotiations. Washington and Beijing opened a ninth round of talks Wednesday, aiming to further narrow differences in a trade war that has deepened uncertainty for businesses and investors and cast a pall over the outlook for the global economy.

The trade war has intensified investor's concerns about a global economic slowdown as they absorb a constant stream of mixed economic data. The latest report from the Labor Department shows that unemployment applications fell last week to their lowest level since 1969.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 156 points, or 0.6%, to 26,374 as of 3:19 p.m. The S&P 500 index added 0.2% and the Nasdaq fell 0.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks edged up 0.2%.

Major indexes in Europe finished mostly lower.

Despite some bumps this week, the major U.S. stock indexes are on track to end the week with gains, adding to the market's blockbuster returns in the January-March period. The S&P 500 is now up 14.8% this year.

LOW BATTERY: Tesla fell 7.5% after the electric car maker told investors that assembly lines slowed and deliveries fell during the first quarter.

The company only churned out 77,100 vehicles to start the year, leaving it well off pace to meet CEO Elon Musk's pledge to build 500,000 cars annually.

Musk already warned investors that the company will lose money during the first quarter as it cuts costs in order to lower the price of the Model 3, its first electric car designed for the mass market.

PAPER CUTS: Office Depot plunged 23.8% after the retailer warned investors that first-quarter revenue would fall short of forecasts.

It also said a 20% jump in paper costs over the last 12 months will weigh down operating expenses. Its CompuCom information technology services unit also had a poor quarter, getting less revenue from existing customers.

The company has been struggling along with other traditional retailers to remake itself as it faces increased competition from online companies.

MESSY BURGERS: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers slid 1.8% after its CEO resigned as a key sales measure fell more sharply than expected during the first quarter.

CEO Denny Marie Post stepped down Wednesday after meeting with the board of directors. The company cited bad weather as the reason for the sharper-than-expected sales decline.

TOASTWORTHY: Constellation Brands climbed 7.3% after the wine, liquor and beer company's fourth-quarter results topped Wall Street's forecasts. The company also said it will sell about 30 of its cheaper wine brands.

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