NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks were mixed following downbeat comments on US-China trade relations from a top US official and after the failure of congressional votes to reopen the government.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.1 per cent at 24,553.24.
The broad-based S&P 500 edged up 0.1 per cent to 2,642.33, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.7 per cent to 7,073.46.
The S&P 500 drifted in and out of positive territory throughout the session as investors sought direction.
"The market is waiting for the next catalyst, bullish or bearish," said Adam Sarhan of 50 Park Investment.
"We're just waiting for something to happen in the near future as we move forward, just waiting for the next shoe to drop."
Analysts said investors were unnerved by comments from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the United States and China are "miles and miles" from resolving their trade war.
Meanwhile, the Senate blocked dueling plans to reopen shuttered federal agencies, with competing proposals favored by President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats both falling short of the needed 60 votes.
Strong earnings from semiconductor companies boosted the Nasdaq, with Texas Instruments winning 6.9 per cent and Lam Research 15.7 per cent following reports.
Airlines were another strong sector, with American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways jumping 5 per cent or more.
All three companies expressed concerns about the impact of the government shutdown on air transport but said they still expected strong profits in 2019.
But pharma stocks were under pressure, with Merck, Pfizer and Eli Lilly all losing about 3 per cent.