Banks and health care companies led stocks broadly higher on Wall Street Thursday afternoon, placing the market on track to snap a four-day losing streak.
The market has been having a wobbly week so far, often starting strong and then losing momentum toward the end of trading. Investors have been mostly pulling back ahead of a key trade meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping of China set for this weekend.
The trade war between the world's two biggest economies remains the biggest source of uncertainty looming over Wall Street. Investors are worried the fallout from the tariffs imposed by both countries on each other's goods could hurt global economic growth and corporate profits.
Even so, traders have mostly pushed stocks higher this month as the Federal Reserve raised expectations that it is prepared to cut interest rates if needed to shield the economy should the damage from the costly trade conflict worsen.
"Investors are in a wait-and-see mode in advance of the G-20 meetings," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. "The reason we're seeing stocks slightly higher today is they're anticipating that Trump and Xi will at least agree not to impose additional tariffs."
Every major index is on track to register gains of more than 6% for the month, despite having declined roughly 1% so far this week.
Banks were the biggest gainers Thursday. Bank of America rose 1.1% and Wells Fargo added 1.4%.
Health care stocks gained momentum throughout the day. AbbVie climbed 2.9%, one of the biggest gainers in the sector. The company is in the process of buying Botox maker Allergan for $63 billion. Other health care stocks also rose. CVS Health gained 2.3% and Humana picked up 2%.
Traders signaled a greater appetite for risk by snapping up stocks known for higher growth, including smaller company stocks and technology companies. Chipmakers, which have much to gain or lose from the result of the trade negotiations, were particularly strong. Micron Technology climbed 3.3% and Nvidia rose 2.6%.
Utilities and makers of consumer products eked out small gains in another sign that investors were shifting away from safe-play holdings.
Energy stocks lagged the broader market. ConocoPhillips slid 2.1%.
Boeing as the aircraft maker faces more software problems with its 737 Max aircraft.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.4% as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 33 points, or 0.1%, to 26,570. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.7%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 1.5%.
Major indexes in Europe ended mixed.
TRADE WATCH: This weekend's Group of 20 summit in Japan is the first opportunity Trump and Xi have had to discuss their differences on trade face-to-face since Trump said he was preparing to target the $300 billion in Chinese imports that he hasn't already hit with tariffs, extending them to everything China ships to the United States.
The two sides are in a stalemate after 11 rounds of talks that have failed to overcome U.S. concerns over China's acquisition of American technology and its massive trade surplus. China denies forcing U.S. companies to hand over trade secrets and says the surplus is much smaller than it appears once the trade in services and the value extracted by U.S. companies are taken into account.
Investors are hoping that the meeting between Trump and Xi will restart trade negotiations between the two countries.
TAKEOFF DELAYS: Boeing fell 1.9% after the airplane maker said a new software problem has been found in its troubled 737 Max aircraft.
Government test pilots trying out Boeing's updated Max software in a flight simulator last week found a flaw that could result in the plane's nose pitching down. The aircraft has been grounded worldwide after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.
The company is also facing calls for more pilot training on the aircraft, which could be costly.
SPOILED GROCERIES: Chef Boyardee and Peter Pan peanut butter maker Conagra Brands slumped 10% after falling short of Wall Street's fiscal fourth quarter financial forecasts.
The company makes a wide range of food products that also include Jiffy Pop and Swanson frozen dinners. It has been struggling along with other large processed food makers to compete amid shifting consumer trends to seemingly healthier food options.
BUILDING PROFIT: KB Home climbed 7.9% after the homebuilder blew past Wall Street's profit forecasts for its fiscal second quarter.
The company reported growth in orders for new homes. The industry is benefiting from low mortgage rates. KB and its peers have also reported a slight decrease in home prices, which also helps potential homebuyers.
Shares in other homebuilders also rose. Hovnanian Enterprises gained 5% and Taylor Morrison climbed 3.7%.
AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed to this report.