US STOCKS-Commerce deal hopes propel Wall St to recent report highs

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main stock indexes hit record highs on Friday, fueled by fresh optimism over a potential calming of U.S.-China trade tensions and by a strong forecast from semiconductor industry bellwether Applied Materials.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The benchmark S&P 500 was on track for its sixth straight week of gains.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said late on Thursday that the United States and China are getting close to a trade agreement, citing what he called very constructive talks with Beijing.

“Today is definitely about optimism surrounding the trade tensions,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede in Philadelphia.

The stock market has climbed recently to record highs, driven by Federal Reserve interest rate cuts, third-quarter earnings topping low expectations and signs that economic growth may be bottoming, while uncertainty over U.S.-China trade relations remains a wild card.

“It’s definitely been a big source of volatility over a fairly long period of time for the markets and stocks in general,” Pride said. “To see some sort of resolution of it would probably be a lift to investors and to equity holders because it takes away a big piece of uncertainty in many investors’, and even corporate executives’, minds.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 157.02 points, or 0.57%, to 27,938.98, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 18.3 points, or 0.59%, to 3,114.93 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 55.75 points, or 0.66%, to 8,534.76.

All three indexes hit all-time highs during the session.

Healthcare .SPXHC led the way among the S&P 500 sectors, gaining 1.5%, helped by increases for Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Pfizer (PFE.N). All 11 sectors were in positive territory.

Shares of Applied Materials soared 9.0% after the chip gear maker forecast first-quarter revenue and profit above Wall Street estimates.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index .SOX gained 1.1% and hit a record high. Enthusiasm for the group was tempered by a 2.0% decline in Nvidia (NVDA.O) shares following the chipmaker’s report.

Data on Friday showed U.S. retail sales rebounded in October, but consumers cut back on purchases of big-ticket household items and clothing, which could temper expectations for a strong holiday shopping season.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.90-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.66-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 48 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 106 new highs and 93 new lows.

Additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Nick Zieminski

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