Wall Street higher as U.S.-China talks progress, GDP growth cut caps gains

(Reuters) – Wall Street rose modestly on Thursday, as U.S.-China trade talks made headway, but a cut in quarterly GDP growth exacerbated fears of an economic slowdown and kept a lid on gains.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The domestic economy slowed more than initially thought in the fourth quarter, keeping growth in 2018 below the 3 percent annual target, and corporate profits failed to rise for the first time in more than two years.

“Right now, economic concerns are front and center for investors. They were particularly confident that the United States is strong, but now doubts are starting to creep in,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Jersey.

Growth worries hit Wall Street last week when the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year and the U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007.

However, with investors beginning to adjust to a dovish pivot from global central banks, the benchmark 10-year yields rose off their 15-month lows on Thursday. [US/]

This helped the interest rate sensitive financial sector rise 0.45 percent, with the banking sector gaining 0.68 percent.

Meanwhile, investors are also focusing on the progress in U.S.-China trade talks as top U.S. officials leading a delegation for trade talks arrived in Beijing.

Reuters reported that China has made unprecedented proposals on a range of issues including forced technology transfer, while a Bloomberg report said the U.S. could lift some tariffs on China, while leaving others in place as part of an enforcement mechanism on the trade deal.

“It seems very unlikely that the trade issues would get resolved very quickly. They’ve indicated that they made progress so many times, it is a situation where investors want more concrete rather than just talk of progress,” Meckler said.

At 9:47 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 70.07 points, or 0.27 percent, at 25,695.66. The S&P 500 was up 7.24 points, or 0.26 percent, at 2,812.61 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 13.48 points, or 0.18 percent, at 7,656.86.

Consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.46 percent, and provided the biggest boost to markets.

PVH Corp rose 17.6 percent, the most among S&P 500 companies, after the apparel maker forecast full-year adjusted profit and sales above Wall Street expectations.

Nielsen Holdings Plc fell 9.2 percent, the most among S&P 500 companies, after a report that private equity firm Blackstone Group backed out of an auction to buy the ratings company.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.62-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.94-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 24 new highs and 17 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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