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US stocks fall as market eyes trade talks

Wall Street stocks dropped early Monday ahead of closely-watched US-China trade talks, while investors began to look ahead to the third-quarter corporate earnings season.

Top officials from Beijing will be in Washington this week to resume negotiations starting Thursday to try to resolve a trade fight that has lasted for more than a year, marked by signs of progress followed by escalation of tensions and repeated rounds of tariffs.

"All we can say is that we'll know what China is going to do -- and the US for that matter -- when we know it. Everything right now is just a rumor mill," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare. "Expect to see some seesaw trading behavior."

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 26,447.29, down 0.5 percent.

The broad-based S&P 500 also dropped 0.5 percent to 2,937.25, along with the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, which fell to 7,945.24.

Companies in the S&P 500 are projected to report an earnings decline of 4.1 percent third quarter, according to Factset. Investors will be watching to see whether executives fear a broad economic slowdown.

There are a few earnings reports this week, including Delta Air Lines, but the period does not begin in earnest until next week.

Among individual companies, General Motors fell 1.5 percent after the United Autoworkers said the two sides remain far apart on a new contract as a strike dragged into a fourth week.

General Electric shed 0.8 percent as it announced a number of changes to its retirement program to save money and reduce debt, including freezing the US plan for about 20,000 US employees.