Wall Street gains as U.S.-China trade talks resume

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Monday, led by industrial companies, as the United States and China began their latest round of trade talks to hammer out a deal before the looming March deadline.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

China struck an upbeat note on the talks, while White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway also expressed confidence of a possible deal.

Boeing Inc, the largest U.S. exporter to China, and Caterpillar Inc both gained 1 percent and pushed the trade-sensitive industrial sector 0.71 percent higher.

“These trade talks are being viewed as a positive,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty, but there’s this pattern of markets embracing good news a little bit more than bad news.”

The latest talks come against the backdrop of last month’s discussions ending without a deal and the top U.S. negotiator declaring that a lot more work needed to be done.

“The market is reacting to shifting news but there won’t be a significant move until we get a resolution to trade,” Brown said.

Also on investors’ watchlist is the border security funding talks, which collapsed on Sunday after Democratic and Republican lawmakers clashed over immigrant detention policy. A special negotiating panel is aiming to reach a deal by Monday ahead of a Friday deadline to avert another government shutdown.

Trade uncertainty and worries of a global economic slowdown capped gains on the S&P 500, which ended last week flat. Still the benchmark index is nearly 16 percent above its December lows, helped in part by a dovish Federal Reserve and largely upbeat earnings reports.

Of the S&P 500 companies that have reported fourth-quarter earnings, 71.2 percent have topped estimates, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. But analysts’ estimates for first-quarter earnings have turned negative for the first time since 2016.

At 9:39 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78.62 points, or 0.31 percent, at 25,184.95. The S&P 500 was up 9.43 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,717.31 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 37.41 points, or 0.51 percent, at 7,335.61.

The energy sector fell 0.54 percent and was the only major S&P sector to drop, as oil prices slipped.

The heavyweight FAANG stocks – Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc, Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc – rose between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent.

Electronics Arts Inc gained 8.8 percent after analysts were upbeat about a strong start to the videogame publisher’s newly launched rival to “Fortnite”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.78-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.99-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and one new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and six new lows.

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

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