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US stocks erased early losses to trade flat on Monday, as comments from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow calmed nerves over the outcome of this week's high-level trade talks with China, with the Nasdaq also boosted by chipmaker Nvidia. It was possible that the two sides could make progress during the talks in Washington and the United States was open to looking at Beijing's proposals, Kudlow told reporters.

Analysts said the comments were not of much substance and that could be holding back investors from making bigger bets. "Investors are somewhat tired of the same song and dance from the administration. They are not going to fully buy in until something materializes from the meeting," said Matt Ruffalo, senior strategist at Clarfeld Financial Advisors in New Jersey. Tariff concessions last month had fueled hopes of a resolution to the prolonged dispute, but a report that Beijing was increasingly reluctant to agree to a broad deal pursued by President Donald Trump weighed on sentiment.

The White House officially confirmed that the high-level negotiations would commence on Thursday. Wall Street logged a choppy start to October on anxiety over mixed economic indicators and intensifying efforts to impeach Trump, but that was offset by rising bets of a third interest rate cut this year by the Federal Reserve. A second whistleblower has come forward with first-hand knowledge of Trump's attempts to get the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival, lawyers for the official said on Sunday.

Investors will now turn to the third-quarter earnings season, which kicks off next week with US banks reporting, for more clarity on the impact of the trade war on Corporate America. Analysts expect the lowest quarterly profit performance since 2016, with S&P 500 earnings seen falling nearly 3% from a year earlier, based on IBES data from Refinitiv. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.46 points, or 0.01%, at 26,572.26 and the S&P 500 was up 0.65 points, or 0.02%, at 2,952.66.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 10.23 points, or 0.13%, at 7,992.70. Gains in the tech-heavy index were driven by a 2.3% rise in Nvidia Corp. RBC Capital Markets raised its price target on the semiconductor maker, citing improved gaming and data center demand. E*Trade Financial Corp rose 2.3% after UBS upgraded the online broker's shares to "buy".

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.00-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.23-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded eight new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 64 new lows.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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