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Friday February 21st, 2020 10:04AM

Major US stock indexes hit record highs amid trade optimism

By The Associated Press
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More encouraging signs that trade talks between the U.S. and China are on track kept investors in a buying mood Tuesday, nudging the major stock indexes to record highs for the second straight day.

Retailers and other companies that rely on consumer spending helped power the modest rally, which adds to the market’s solid start to the week. Only energy, banks and health care sector stocks ended with losses. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower.

Beijing said Tuesday that negotiators for both sides met earlier in the day and agreed to more talks aimed at reaching a deal. The latest development came 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 rose 6.88 points, or 0.2%, to 3,140.52. The benchmark index is on a three-day winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 55.21 points, or 0.2%, to 28,121.68.

The Nasdaq composite added 15.44 points, or 0.2%, to 8,647.93. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 2.33 points, or 0.1%, to 1,624.23.

The major stock indexes are on track for strong gains this year. The S&P 500 is up by more than 25%, while the Dow is up by more than 20%. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, is now up by more than 30%.

Surprisingly good corporate earnings, solid economic data, interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and more optimism on the part of investors about the prospects for a U.S.-China trade deal have helped spur the market higher since late October.

The latest signals indicating that both sides are continuing to pursue a deal have been particularly encouraging, as new U.S. tariffs are set to hit Dec. 15 on many Chinese-made items on holiday shopping checklists, such as smartphones and laptops.

Investors hoping that Washington and Beijing can agree on terms of a deal that halts their trade dispute, or at least stops it from escalating.

Traders also got a new read 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.

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

Consumer electronics seller Best Buy jumped 9.9% after handily beating Wall Street’s profit expectations for the quarter while giving a surprisingly good profit forecast.

Dick’s Sporting Goods surged 18.6% after blowing away analysts’ profit forecasts for the third quarter, while Burlington Stores vaulted 8.5% 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 15.2% after its profit fell short of Wall Street expectations. Clothing chain operator Abercrombie & Fitch slid 2.6% after the company lowered the top end of its revenue guidance.

Hormel Foods led a broad gain in consumer goods makers. The stock rose 3.6%.

Real estate sector stocks also notched gains. American Tower added 2.4%.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.74% 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.

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.

Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher.

___

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, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
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