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Stocks meander, bonds rise on ECB, U.S.-China trade talk

FILE PHOTO - A journalist takes a picture of the new 50 Euro banknote with a mobile phone during the presentation of the new bill at the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks closed higher on Thursday after a choppy trading day, while U.S. Treasuries were in demand after the European Central Bank chief said economic growth was likely to be weaker than expected and with the United States was far from a China trade deal.

Demand increased for safe-haven assets with U.S. Treasury 10-year yields hitting a one-week low, due to anxiety about slowing global growth and trade. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Washington was "miles and miles" from resolving trade issues with China. [US/]

The euro touched its lowest point against the dollar in six weeks after ECB President Mario Draghi left interest rates unchanged, saying near-term data is likely to be hit by fallout from factors including China's slowdown and Brexit.

On top of the U.S.-China trade war and its global effects investors also worried about the economic impact of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, now in its 34th day.

"A lack of meaningful progress on the government shutdown and trade talks with China and global growth concerns off the ECB President's talk this morning are suggestive of the muted market we're seeing today," said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

With so much uncertainty, Larson said a market pause seems appropriate since the S&P 500 has recouped roughly half the ground it lost in a late 2018 sell-off. [.N]

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.38 points, or 0.09 percent, to 24,553.24, the S&P 500 gained 3.63 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,642.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 47.70 points, or 0.68 percent, to 7,073.46.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.22 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.18 percent.

Earlier data showed last week's applications for U.S. unemployment benefits falling to a more than 49-year low though claims for several states including California were estimated.

While the data was encouraging, Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust in Delaware said it was only a matter of time before a continued shutdown would do "irreparable damage" to the economy. The shutdown and U.S.-China trade war are adding pressure to global economies, he said.

Two bills to end the partial U.S. government shutdown - one backed by Republicans and one by Democrats - failed to win enough votes in the Senate as lawmakers eyed other potential compromises to end the impasse with the White House.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.38 points, or 0.09 percent, to 24,553.24, the S&P 500 gained 3.63 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,642.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 47.70 points, or 0.68 percent, to 7,073.46.

Nasdaq was supported by strength in chipmaker and airline stocks after earnings reports.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.18 percent on the day.

The euro was 0.7 percent lower against the dollar at $1.13, after falling as low as $1.129, its weakest since Dec. 14.


The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus the euro, yen, sterling and three other currencies, was up 0.43 percent at 96.538.


Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 12/32 in price to yield 2.7139 percent, from 2.755 percent late on Wednesday.

U.S. oil prices rose by 1 percent, boosted by the U.S. threat of sanctions on Venezuela, but gains were capped by U.S. data showing record high gasoline inventories and an unexpected big build in crude stocks.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures rose 51 cents to settle at $53.13 a barrel, a 0.97 percent gain. Brent crude LCOc1 futures fell 5 cents to settle at $61.09 a barrel. [O/R]


(Additional reporting by Richard Leong, Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Stephanie Kelly in New York, Marc Jones and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; editing by G Crosse, Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)