Wall Street rises on optimism over U.S.-China trade talks

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes traded higher on Wednesday, though off session highs, boosted by rising expectations that the United States and China could reach a deal during their ongoing trade talks, with benign inflation data offering support.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“So far, so good,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said about the U.S.-China trade talks in Beijing, a day after President Donald Trump said he would be willing to let a March 1 deadline slide if the two sides were close to a deal.

Trade-sensitive industrials rose 0.44 percent, while chipmakers, which depend on China for a large portion of their revenue, also gained, with the Philadelphia chip index up 0.62 percent.

“The optimism is really about the trade talks with China and a deal getting done, but relief about the government staying open is also helping,” said Jimmy Lee, founder and CEO of The Wealth Consulting Group in Las Vegas, Nevada.

President Donald Trump left his options open on whether to sign a funding deal that would avert another partial government shutdown, but a source familiar with the situation said he would likely back the bipartisan agreement.

“We’re back with a risk-on attitude but there’s still a little bit of profit-taking as the stock market has been up a lot this year,” said Lee.

The benchmark S&P 500 is set for its fourth session of gains and has rallied nearly 10 percent this year, helped by a dovish Federal Reserve, optimism on trade and a largely upbeat fourth-quarter earnings season.

Markets also took heart from inflation data that showed U.S. consumer prices were unchanged for a third straight month in January, suggesting that the Fed will hold interest rates steady for a while.

U.S. treasury yields rose, taking financials 0.4 percent higher. The sector provided a boost to the S&P 500.

At 12:42 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78.85 points, or 0.31 percent, at 25,504.61. The S&P 500 was up 6.35 points, or 0.23 percent, at 2,751.08 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 12.64 points, or 0.17 percent, at 7,427.26.

Analysts’ expectations for first-quarter profit have turned sour, after a largely upbeat fourth-quarter earnings. They now estimate current-quarter profit to decline 0.3 percent, which would be the first loss since the second quarter of 2016.

Dish Network Corp dropped 9.6 percent, the most among S&P companies, after the U.S. satellite TV service provider lost more-than-expected pay-TV subscribers in the fourth quarter.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc rose 6 percent after the owner of Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotel chains reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

Activision Blizzard Inc rose 4.6 percent after the videogame maker announced a share buyback plan, job cuts and investments to boost its pipeline.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.64-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 34 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 66 new highs and 15 new lows.

Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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