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Monday September 23rd, 2019 5:55AM

US stocks notch solid gains as China eases trade tensions

By The Associated Press
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Stocks notched broad gains on Wall Street Wednesday as investors drew encouragement from China's move to exempt some U.S. products from a recent round of tariffs.

Technology, health care and communication services stocks powered much of the rally. The benchmark S&P 500 index, which had been essentially flat since Friday, is on track for its third straight weekly gain.

Bond yields continued to climb. Oil prices fell, and investors also continued to favor smaller-company stocks.

Wednesday's push into technology companies marked a reversal from the first couple of days of the week, when traders bid up energy, financials and other sectors that had sold off in recent weeks. The tech sector is particularly sensitive to fallout from the trade war between Washington and Beijing because many big companies, such as Apple, manufacture products in China.

"Today you have a little bit of a rotation back," said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "You're getting some movement that trade may not be as bad as we think, with China relieving some of the restrictions on its own tariffs."

The S&P 500 rose 21.54 points, or 0.7%, to 3,000.93. It's the first time the index has finished above 3,000 points since July 30.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 227.61 points, or 0.8%, to 27,137.04. The Nasdaq picked up 85.52 points, or 1.1%, to 8,169.68.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks outpaced the broader market, climbing 32.72 points, or 2.1%, to 1,575.71.

Major indexes in Europe also finished broadly higher.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.75% from 1.70% late Tuesday.

Financial markets have been roiled this summer as the trade war escalated. Investors worry the impact of tariffs and a slowing global economy could tip the U.S. into a recession. The economic uncertainty has also become a drag on companies.

Some of those trade concerns appeared to ease Wednesday after China said it will exempt American industrial grease and some other imports from tariff increases, though it kept in place penalties on soybeans and other major U.S. exports ahead of negotiations next month.

The move could indicate that both sides are settling in for an extended conflict even as they prepare for talks in Washington aimed at ending the dispute that threatens global economic growth.

Investors continue to expect the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at its meeting next week in another bid by the central bank to help maintain U.S. economic growth. The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate in July by a quarter point. That was its first hike in a decade.

Despite a rough and tumble August, the stock market is off to a solid September, with the S&P 500 coming off two weeks of gains.

The Russell 2000 is the clear winner midway into this week, boasting a 4.7% gain. Smaller companies within the index are viewed as more insulated from the impact of volatile swings in the U.S.-China trade war. They are also less affected by a stronger U.S. dollar than multinational companies.

"The stronger dollar does tend to mean domestic companies that are wholly domestic are going to do better," said Haworth.

The S&P 500 is up 0.7% for the week and the Nasdaq is up 0.8%. The Dow is slightly stronger, notching a 1.3% gain.

Apple was among the big gainers as investors snapped up technology stocks. Shares in the iPhone maker, which unveiled a variety of new products and services on Tuesday, climbed 3.2%. Chipmaker Intel gained 1.9%.

Health care and communications stocks also made strong gains. Medtronic rose 1.1% and AT&T climbed 3.1%.

The financial sector wobbled between small gains and losses after pulling out of an early slide. Wells Fargo added 1.1%. Real estate stocks finished flat.

Shares in tobacco giants Altria Group and Philip Morris International rose after a brief slide following the Trump administration's announcement that it is looking to ban thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes amid an outbreak of breathing problems tied to vaping.

State and federal health authorities are investigating hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. No single device, ingredient or additive has been identified.

Altria, which has taken a roughly $13 billion stake in vaping giant Juul, rose 1.1%. Philip Morris gained 0.8%. The companies confirmed last month that they are in talks to merge after they split in 2008.

Traders also weighed a mixed batch of corporate earnings and outlooks Wednesday.

Oracle shares declined 3.1% in after-hours trading after the company announced that its CEO is taking a leave of absence for health reasons.

GameStop plunged 9.8% after the video game retailer slashed its full-year profit forecast following a disappointing second quarter. The company continues to struggle as it competes with online game sellers.

Dave & Buster's Entertainment fell 4.6% after the restaurant and arcade operator cut its sales forecast for the year. The company is facing increased competition.

Shares in RH, the owner of furniture company Restoration Hardware, rose 5.1% after its latest quarterly results topped Wall Street's expectations. The company also raised its financial forecast for the year.

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.65 to settle at $55.75 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped $1.57 to close at $60.81 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.57 per gallon. Heating oil declined 3 cents to $1.90 per gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $2.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $4.10 to $1,494.40 per ounce, silver fell 1 cent to $18.03 per ounce and copper fell 1 cent to $2.60 per pound.

The dollar rose to 107.79 Japanese yen from 107.43 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1007 from $1.1047.

___

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 - Utilities
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