Various economic indicators, such as a larger-than-expected drop in Taiwan's exports and similarly weak figures for Singapore and South Korea, appear to have left investors cautious. "While the world speculates on the longevity of China's latest stimulus hit, it's essential to realize that not all parts of the world are performing as gloriously as the U.S. and China at the moment," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.
The weak start to trading came as the White House said a U.S. delegation will visit Beijing next week to continue trade negotiations. Chinese officials will visit Washington for more talks starting May 8.
The talks are aimed at resolving a dispute over Beijing's technology policies and other issues that has clouded the economic outlook and shaken financial markets. President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports in a dispute over Beijing's aggressive drive to challenge U.S. technological dominance. China has retaliated by targeting $110 billion in U.S. products.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead the U.S. side in the talks beginning April 30. Investors seemed unswayed by the S&P 500's all-time high, which marked the market's complete recovery from a nosedive at the end of last year. The S&P 500 index gained 0.9%, to 2,933.68. Its previous record high was 2,930.75, which was set on Sept. 20.
The benchmark index's previous record was set last September, shortly before the market sank in the fourth quarter amid fears of a recession, an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, and concern the Federal Reserve was moving too aggressively to raise interest rates.
Those concerns have eased or taken a back seat this year to more optimism among investors, who seem more optimistic about the global economy and Fed policy after the central bank signaled it might not raise interest rates at all in 2019.
The Nasdaq composite index climbed 1.3% to 8,120.82 on Tuesday, beating the record high close of 8,109.69 it reached on Aug. 29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5% to 26,656.39. Small-company stocks rose much more than the rest of the market, a bullish sign indicating that investors were more willing to take on risk. The Russell 2000 index picked up 1.6%to 1,585.09, but finished well below the peak it reached in August.
So far, stocks have been lifted by relatively strong earnings results and optimistic corporate forecasts, though it's too early to say if the season will beat Wall Street's modest expectations. Hasbro surged 14.2% after the toy company reported strong growth in its various franchises, which include Transformers toys, which benefited from the hit movie "Bumblebee" and "Magic: The Gathering Arena."
Coca-Cola surprised Wall Street with its beverage sales during the first quarter after it previously warned of slower growth this year. The stock rose 1.7%. Twitter surged 15.6% after surprising Wall Street by adding more users than analysts had expected during the first quarter.
ENERGY: U.S. crude lost 35 cents to $65.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 1.1% to settle at $66.30 per barrel on Tuesday. Oil has been climbing since dropping below $43 in late December. Brent crude declined 34 cents to $74.17 per barrel. It rose 0.6% to close at $74.51 per barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 111.79 Japanese yen from 111.87 yen late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.1212 from $1.1227.
AP Business writers Damien J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.