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Monday March 30th, 2020 5:47AM

US stock indexes eye new highs amid optimism over trade

By The Associated Press
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Technology companies and retailers led stocks modestly higher on Wall Street Tuesday, adding to the market’s solid start to the week.

The latest gains also had the major indexes on track to close at record highs for the second straight day amid new signs that the U.S. and China are making progress toward ending their costly trade war.

Beijing said that negotiators for both sides met early Tuesday and agreed to more talks aimed at reaching a deal. The latest bit of information comes a day after China announced new guidelines for the protection of patents and copyrights, which has been a key issue in the dispute.

Investors have grown more hopeful over trade negotiations as the world’s two largest economies continue to keep their rhetoric in check. That’s a clear difference from earlier this year, when a sharp comment from either side would seemingly silence any ongoing talks and worsen relations.

“Generally, you can kind of look at the commentary coming out and I’d say it leans in the direction of progress being made, albeit at a fairly slow pace,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede Trust.

The S&P 500 index was up 0.2% as of 3:52 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 66 points, or 0.2%, to 28,133. The Nasdaq added 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained 0.2%. Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher.

New U.S. tariffs are set to hit Dec. 15 on many Chinese-made items on holiday shopping checklists, such as smartphones and laptops. That has investors hoping that the latest round of talks between Washington and Beijing will yield a deal that halts their trade dispute, or at least stops it from escalating.

Traders also got to weigh new data on the U.S. consumer Tuesday. The Conference Board said its closely watched consumer confidence index fell slightly for the fourth consecutive month to 125.5. Still, the reading remains elevated ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Investors will have several other economic reports to assess on Wednesday, including home sales data, a key measure of inflation and the government’s latest quarterly estimate of economic growth.

Gains in Microsoft and Intuit helped lift technology stocks Tuesday. Microsoft rose 0.5% and Intuit climbed 3%. The technology sector is on track for a 41.6% gain this year.

Industrial stocks and makers of household goods also rose.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.73% from 1.76% late Monday.

The lower yields weighed on banks, which use them to set interest rates on mortgages and other loans. Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all fell.

Several retailers closed out the latest round of corporate earnings with varied results Tuesday.

Consumer electronics seller Best Buy jumped 9.8% after handily beating Wall Street’s profit expectations for the quarter while giving a surprisingly good profit forecast.

Dick’s Sporting Goods surged 17.6% after blowing away analysts’ profit forecasts for the third quarter, while Burlington Stores vaulted 9.4% after the discount retailer of coats, jackets and other clothing reported quarterly results that topped analysts’ forecasts. The company also raised its earnings guidance.

Other retailers didn’t have a good day.

Discount retailer Dollar Tree plunged 16.3% after its profit fell short of Wall Street expectations. And clothing chain operator Abercrombie & Fitch slid 0.6% after the company lowered the top end of its revenue guidance.

Benchmark crude oil rose 40 cents to settle at $58.41 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 62 cents to close at $64.27 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.70 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 2 cents to $1.96 per gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to $2.46 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $3.20 to $1,459.80 per ounce, silver rose 16 cents to $17.03 per ounce and copper rose 1 cent to $2.66 per pound.

The dollar rose to 109.04 Japanese yen from 108.97 yen on Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.1022 from $1.1009.

___

AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
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