Technology companies led stocks broadly higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday as the market recouped some of its losses from the day before.
The rally came as investors turned hopeful that the U.S. and China may make some progress in their latest round of trade negotiations after Beijing reportedly signaled that it is open to a partial deal.
Both sides had held off from further escalating the conflict up until this week, when the U.S. blacklisted a group of Chinese technology companies over alleged human rights violations. Envoys from the U.S. and China are still expected to meet Thursday to start a 13th round of trade talks.
"Whichever way the trade winds tend to be blowing is the way the market tends to direct itself," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist, CFRA. "Yesterday it was a worry that we would not really have any kind of success coming out of the upcoming trade talks. Now it sounds as if China would be willing to engage in some piecemeal accords."
The renewed optimism led traders to bid up technology stocks, which saw broad gains. Microsoft rose 2% and Apple added 1.4%. The sector has been suffering most of the week because of uncertainty over the talks. Many of the companies rely on China for revenue and their supply chains.
Financial stocks also rose. Citigroup led the big bank stocks higher with a gain of 1.9%.
The health care sector also helped lift the market, along with energy stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending. Real estate companies and utilities lagged the market in a sign that investors were less interested in safe-play sectors.
Bond yields rose in another sign that investors were shifting to higher risk assets. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.58% from 1.53% late Tuesday.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 1.2% as of 3:29 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 239 points, or 0.9%, to 26,403. The Nasdaq gained 1.3%.
Major stock indexes in Europe finished broadly higher. Stocks in Asia finished mixed.
VERY VOLATILE: The sharp shifts in trade war rhetoric and actions have made for an extremely volatile market over the last few months. Investors are still hoping for a trade deal, but are not expecting it to come any time soon. Despite the gains Wednesday, stocks are still on track for their fourth weekly loss in a row as uncertainty hangs over the markets.
The S&P 500 is down 1.1% for the week and the technology-heavy Nasdaq has fallen 1%. The Dow has dropped 0.8%.
TRADE TALKS AHEAD: The trade war between the U.S. and China has dragged on for 15 months, inflicting economic damage on both countries. The two sides have raised import duties on billions of dollars of each other's goods, fueling fears their dispute might tip the global economy into recession.
All told, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of Chinese goods and plans to tax an additional $160 billion of imports on Dec. 15. This would extend U.S. tariffs to just about everything China ships to the United States. China has counterpunched by taxing $120 billion in U.S. exports, notably soybeans and other farm goods.
Investors are hoping for some type of resolution as the 13th round of trade talks resume Thursday in Washington.
"Our base case, to which we assign a 50% probability, is for only modest progress in this round of talks," said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. "Modest progress averts further escalation while failing to resolve conflicts over intellectual property and subsidies."
FED WATCH: Stocks were little changed following the afternoon release of the minutes from a meeting last month by Federal Reserve policymakers.
Fed officials were sharply divided last month when they decided to cut their key policy rate for a second time this year, a split that indicates the path forward for future rate cuts remains cloudy.
The minutes of the discussion at the September meeting show that the majority of Fed officials believed a second quarter-point cut was appropriate given increased economic uncertainty from trade tensions and a slowing global economy. Some Fed officials indicated they favored a stronger half-point reduction, while others argued that the Fed should not be cutting rates at all.
The central bank has said it is ready to continue taking measures to maintain U.S. economic growth amid growing uncertainty brought on by the U.S.-China trade war.
BRUISED: Johnson & Johnson fell 1.9% after the health care company was ordered to pay $8 billion in punitive damages by a Philadelphia jury in a case involving the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
DOWN RIVER: James River Group Holdings plunged 22.1% in heavy trading after the insurer said it will canceling policies early for its largest customer, saying they weren't meeting its goals for profitability.
ENCOURAGING OUTLOOK: FireEye climbed 4.7% after the cybersecurity company told investors that its third quarter revenue will hit the high end of its forecast and possibly top its expectations.
AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.