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US markets settle marginally lower as investors monitor US-China trade talks

The US markets settled slightly lower on Tuesday as investors looked beyond US-China trade talks for further catalysts to trade on. Trading was somewhat subdued as investors awaited more concrete developments following reports that US and Chinese negotiators were close to completing a trade deal. Further, the impending release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday also kept some traders on the sidelines. Besides, there was some cautiousness following China cut its economic growth target for this year to between 6% and 6.5%. However, downside remained capped as investors cheered stronger-than-expected quarterly results out of retailer Target, sending its shares up around 5%. The company posted earnings per share of $1.53 and revenue of $22.977 billion.

On the economic front, after reporting a slowdown in the rate of growth in US service sector activity in the previous month, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released a report showing growth rebounded by much more than expected in the month of February. The ISM said its non-manufacturing index climbed to 59.7 in February after falling to 56.7 in January, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in the service sector. Street had expected the index to inch up to 57.3. Meanwhile, new home sales in the US unexpectedly showed a notable increase in the month of December, according to a report released by the Commerce Department. The report said new home sales jumped by 3.7% to an annual rate of 621,000 in December after surging up by 9.1% to a revised rate of 599,000 in November. Street had expected new home sales to tumble by 8.7% to a rate of 600,000 from the 657,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 13.02 points or 0.05 percent to 25806.63, S&P 500 lost 3.16 points or 0.11 percent to 2789.65 and Nasdaq was down by 1.21 points or 0.02 percent to 7576.36.

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