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By Lewis Krauskopf
U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday from near-record levels, as Apple and healthcare shares fell and investors braced for a busy week of political and economic news, including a potential turning point in the U.S.-China trade dispute.
Wall Street is focussed on Dec. 15, when the next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports is scheduled to take effect. China said on Monday that it hoped to make a trade deal with the United States as soon as possible.
Investor hopes of at least an initial U.S.-China agreement have helped push major stock indexes to record highs, with the benchmark S&P 500 hovering about 0.5% below its all-time high.
"The market is ... in a little bit of a wait-and-see mode," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.
"All eyes are still on what is going to happen with the tariff situation come December 15th," Carlson said. "That’s still the biggest near-term factor that is probably going to influence trading.”
Aside from improved investor sentiment over trade, the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate cuts earlier this year and some relief over corporate profits have helped drive the S&P 500 up 25% so far in 2019.
This week, investors also will focus on the Fed's policy meeting, an election in the United Kingdom, and potential agreement related to a North American trade pact.
On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 105.46 points, or 0.38%, to 27,909.6, the S&P 500 lost 9.94 points, or 0.32%, to 3,135.97 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 34.70 points, or 0.4%, to 8,621.83.
A 1.4% decline in shares of Apple , which are often sensitive to trade developments, was the biggest single stock drag on all three indexes.
Most of the S&P 500 sectors were lower, with tech and healthcare weighing the most on the index.
In company news, Merck & Co said it would buy cancer drug developer ArQule Inc for $2.7 billion, causing shares of ArQule to double in value. Merck shares dipped 0.1%.
Shares of industrial conglomerate 3M Co dropped 1.0% after Citigroup cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "buy."
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.02-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.34-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 93 new highs and 59 new lows.
About 6.2 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the 6.6 billion-share daily average over the last 20 sessions.
(Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silvan, Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)