Mnuchin optimistic on trade battles; Wall Street approves

Investors liked what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had to say about efforts to reach a trade deal with Canada and Mexico. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Stocks rebound after an early dip

NEW YORK — Stocks reversed an early slide on Wall Street and finished broadly higher Wednesday, giving the market its second straight gain in a week of bumpy trading.

Big technology and communications companies, including Microsoft, Apple and Google parent Alphabet, led the rally as the market shrugged off an initial stumble. Banks took heavy losses following a sharp drop in bond yields.

Investors got in a buying mood after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave a Senate subcommittee a promising update on the Trump administration's efforts to reach a trade deal with Canada and Mexico. Markets also got a boost from reports that the White House plans to delay new tariffs on car and auto parts imports from Europe by up to six months.

"The market does not believe that the trade discord will be protracted or widen, nor lead to a worldwide economic slowdown, or worse yet, a global recession," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

US retail sales continue rocky ride

WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales declined last month as Americans cut back their spending on clothes, appliances, and home and garden supplies.

Sales dropped 0.2% in April, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, after a big 1.7% jump in March. Car sales dropped 1.1% last month and sales at electronics and appliance stores dropped 1.3%.

Economists are having a difficult time gauging the mood of consumers this year. Retail sales have been on a seesaw pattern, rising at a healthy pace in January, then falling in February, followed by the big jump in March and now a drop in April. The roller coaster pattern may partly result from the government shutdown in January, which disrupted the collection of economic data.

Still, analysts said the jump in March retail sales means that even after April's small decline, sales are rising over time at a decent pace. Steady job gains and solid hiring will likely underpin future spending.

"The report is disappointing but far from a disaster," Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said. "Though losing momentum amid fading support from tax cuts, consumer fundamentals remain supportive, suggesting households will pick up the pace in coming months."

Macy's tops estimates and comparable sales

NEW YORK — Retail bellwether Macy's put up its sixth consecutive quarter of increases in comparable store sales fueled by a robust online business. The department store chain also smashed estimates for first quarter profits.

Revenue was $5.5 billion, just shy of expectations. Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 0.7%.

Macy's stuck to its full-year earnings projections of between $3.05 and $3.25 per share, roughly in line with expectations.

The report offered encouraging news after the retailer struggled through a weak holiday season. It offered signs that its retooling of its loyalty program and its expansion of its off-price concept are enticing shoppers. The company also delivered another quarter of double-digit increases in online sales.

A strong economy and Macy's reinvention efforts have helped produce a string of quarterly increases at established stores after a three-year sales slump. But that momentum was fizzling. Moreover, escalating trade wars with China could now create big challenges for department stores and other general merchandise retailers.

The proposed list of about $300 billion of Chinese goods that face new duties of at least 25% includes items like clothing as well as home goods and toys. That would force Macy's and others to either absorb the costs or raise prices.

Historic JFK terminal now a hotel

NEW YORK — The famous winged TWA terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport has come out of its decades-long retirement with a new life as a luxury hotel after a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.

The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen didn't have a hotel in mind when he designed the futuristic structure that opened in 1962. Those were the heady jet-age days of the first space flights and President John F. Kennedy's promise of a moon landing.

Now, hospitality executive Tyler Morse hopes the proximity to the airport will draw travelers who don't want to fight nightmarish traffic to catch their flights.

Factory output declined in April

WASHINGTON — U.S. industrial production fell in April, dragged by a big drop in factory output as production of autos and auto parts continued to slide.

The Federal Reserve says industrial output — reflecting total production at factories, utilities and mines — dropped 0.5% in April after a 0.2% March gain. Industrial production fell 0.5% in February.

Manufacturing output fell 0.5%, led by a 2.6% decline in motor vehicles and parts, which has fallen in three of the past four months.

Production at the nation's utilities fell a sharp 3.5%. Production at mines, a sector that also covers oil and gas drilling, rose 1.6%.

Manufacturing has struggled over the past year, reflecting weakness in auto sales and the global economy.

Wire reports

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