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Stocks: Another Act of 'Waiting for China' Leaves S&P Flat - Investors spent Thursday hoping for a catalyst to push stocks higher – and didn't get one.

While the S&P 500 did reach a new closing high at just under 3,097, it came with no drama. The other major indexes struggled as well.

The S&P 500 rose 2.6 points, or 0.08%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was very nearly flat for the second time in three days. It was off 1.6 points or 0.01%. On Tuesday, the index finished unchanged om the day, its first unchanged day since April 24, 2014.

The Nasdaq Composite and the Nasdaq 100 indexes fell 0.04% and 0.02%, respectively.

The catalyst investors, traders and their computers want is a trade deal with China. It didn't happen Thursday. And no one in the Trump Administration or the government of Xi Jinping in China was signaling any clarity on when an agreement will come.

The critical issues right now appear to be how much China will spend on U.S. farm products and when and how tariffs imposed earlier this year and potentially increased next month will be rescinded.

Instead, investors had to deal with disappointing guidance from Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and a downgrade on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), whose stock hit a new all-time high before pulling back. Cisco, down 7.3%, was the weakest performer in the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) moved 1.35% higher, good for nearly 32 Dow points on an upgrade from Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Stallard. Stallard raised his price target on the stock to $400. But there was a caveat: The 737 Max has to start flying again.

The shares are off 3.4% this quarter, but still up nearly 14% on the year.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) hit an all-time high after fiscal third-quarter results were stronger than expected, but the shares fell back 0.3% on apparent profit-taking.

Seven of 11 S&P 500 sectors were higher, led by real estate and materials stocks. Energy was the weakest sector, even as crude oil moved lower on a larger-than-expected gain in domestic oil stocks.

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