* Upcoming meeting between Trump, Xi in focus
* Defensive stocks lead indexes modest gains
* Steel cos drop as China steel futures enter bear territory
* Indexes up: Dow 0.10 pct, S&P 0.13 pct, Nasdaq 0.07 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline and byline)
By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks made small gains on Tuesday after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said a meeting between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart on Saturday was an opportunity to "turn the page" on a trade war.
All three major U.S. indexes turned positive after spending much of the session in negative territory, after Kudlow's comments days ahead of the high-stakes dinner between the two leaders after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
But Kudlow also said the White House has been disappointed so far in China's response to trade issues with the United States. On Monday, Trump threatened to move ahead with additional tariffs on Chinese goods, due to take effect on Jan. 1.
"People want to believe that something good is going to come from the G20" meeting, said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. "(But) the longer it takes, the more concern the market feels that this is never going to happen, or it's just more rhetoric and people start to lose faith."
Trade-sensitive industrials and materials sectors were down 0.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
Industrials were also the biggest drag on the Dow index, led by United Technologies Corp, which was down 5.5 percent following its announcement late Monday that it would divide its aerospace, elevators and building segments into three discrete companies.
U.S. steel company stocks dropped as China's steel sector slid into bear territory, with the benchmark rebar contract down more than 20 percent from its 2018 peak. US Steel Corp slid 8.5 percent, while AK Steel Holdings fell 3.8 percent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 25.41 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,665.65, the S&P 500 gained 3.54 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,676.99 and the Nasdaq Composite added 4.69 points, or 0.07 percent, to 7,086.55.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven were in positive territory, led by gains in defensive sectors such as utilities, real estate and consumer staples .
Chipmaker stocks veered back into positive territory following Kudlow's remarks, and were last up 0.4 percent.
Budget airline Spirit Airlines Inc took off, its stock rising 15.8 percent after hiking fourth-quarter unit revenue guidance.
Shares of drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co fell after its lung cancer therapy fell short of goals in a late state trial. Its shares were last down 3.7 percent.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to speak on Wednesday, and investors will scrutinize his comments over U.S. economic health and trade concerns.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.65-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.84-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 14 new highs and 120 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp Editing by Susan Thomas)