NEW YORK (Jan 18): U.S. stocks advanced on Thursday as hopes of a resolution to the trade dispute between the United States and China boosted industrial shares and lifted investor sentiment.
Stocks spiked higher in afternoon trading after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan. 30.
S&P 500 industrial stocks, which have been sensitive to trade developments, rose 1.7 percent. They held most of their gains even as U.S. stocks pulled back from session highs after a Treasury spokesman said that Mnuchin had not made any such recommendations.
"The market reaction is really telling," said Michael Antonelli, managing director of institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. "It shows how badly people want the trade war to end."
Earlier, industrial stocks had moved higher as shares of defense contractors rose after President Donald Trump unveiled a new U.S. missile defense strategy. Shares of Northrop Grumman Corp advanced 3.3 percent, and shares of Lockheed Martin Corp gained 2.4 percent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 162.94 points, or 0.67 percent, to 24,370.1, the S&P 500 gained 19.86 points, or 0.76 percent, to 2,635.96 and the Nasdaq Composite added 49.77 points, or 0.71 percent, to 7,084.46.
With Thursday's gains, the benchmark S&P 500 index closed above its 50-day moving average for the first time since Dec. 3. The S&P 500 is 10.1 percent away from its Sept. 20 record close after having rallied from a 20-month low on Christmas Eve on concerns over a global economic slowdown.
Also helping to boost stocks on Thursday was a rebound in financial shares, which ended 0.5 percent higher after having dropped as much as 1 percent. The financial index has posted gains for seven straight sessions.
However, shares of Morgan Stanley ended 4.4 percent lower after the investment bank reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit.
In after-hours trading, shares of Netflix Inc fell 2 percent after the video-streaming company reported quarterly results.
Analysts have cut their fourth-quarter profit growth forecast for S&P 500 companies to 14.2 percent from 20.1 percent estimated on Oct. 1, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.45-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 1.69-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 29 new highs and 23 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.19 billion shares, compared to the 8.58 billion average over the last 20 trading days.