USA stocks climb after two big losses; oil falls 5 percent

Stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan

A stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan on Nov. 13 2018

The Shanghai Composite index shed 0.3 percent to 2,567.93. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.2 percent to 5,580.60. Shares were higher in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

After two days of huge losses, US stocks ended back where they started Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, was up a cent at $56.27 a barrel.

The broad-based S&P 500 ended up a hair at 2,546.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index won 0.5 per cent to 6,783.91. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 507.53 points to 23,592.98, and the Nasdaq fell 2.2% to close at 6,753.73. The Nikkei 225 in Japan lost 1.8 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 1 percent and South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.4 percent. The index is down 10 percent this year and is set for its worst year in a decade. But he said investors might be startled if the Fed doesn't raise rates this week, as has been widely expected.

Traders at New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in N.Y. on Dec. 18 2018

S&P 500 energy stocks led the declines, falling 2.4 percent.

Investors, however, are anxious that the Fed may signal numerous hikes in 2019, which many believe could stall USA economic growth.

Watch the major U.S. indexes trade in real time here.

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"Investors are zeroing in on this idea of slower growth for 2019", said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

"If the Fed doesn't hike rates, that would be concerning because it would mean the institution miscommunicated in a substantial way with the market", Mr Cahill said. Some of the largest losses went to utilities and real estate companies, which have done better than the rest of the market during the turbulence of the last three months.

Tobacco stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading session, dragging the NYSE Arca Tobacco Index down by 4.2 percent. Still, investors remain cautious a deal will be done by the March 1 deadline even as China's openness to cutting tariffs on US cars and buying soybeans is feeding optimism that the dispute will be resolved.

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The U.S. and China held vice-minister level trade talks by phone on Wednesday, China's Ministry of Commerce said on its website, without giving details of the call. Facebook stock rallied 2.4% while Google-parent Alphabet added 1.7%. West Texas Intermediate crude is down more than 3.5%, trading at $48.41 a barrel, while Brent crude is down a similar margin, trading at $57.55. It lost $3.35 to $56.26 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.39 yen from 112.52 yen in late trading Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1373 from $1.1350, and the British pound rose to $1.2646 from $1.2629.

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