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Optimism over trade sends U.S. stocks sharply higher

Optimism over trade sends U.S. stocks sharply higher

June 18th, 2019 by Associated Press in National News

Potentially encouraging news on trade and interest rates put Wall Street in a buying mood Tuesday, driving the market to solid gains and sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average 350 points higher.

Technology stocks powered much of the rally as investors welcomed news that the leaders of the U.S. and China will meet face-to-face next week to discuss their long-running trade dispute. Traders have been hoping for any positive sign in the trade war between the world's largest economies.

It's not the first time the market has rallied on seemingly encouraging developments on trade. Previous positive signs did not pan out, triggering market turbulence.

"You sort of have to ignore it a little bit," said Tobias Carlisle, founder and portfolio manager at Acquirers Funds. "It's probably going to drag out to the end of the year, so what we're trying to do is buy something undervalued, and it's great when there's a day like today and it works."

Markets also got a boost after the head of the European Central Bank said it was ready to cut interest rates and provide additional economic stimulus if necessary. The remarks put the spotlight on the Federal Reserve, which is set to announce its own decision on interest rates Wednesday.

The S&P 500 index climbed 28.08 points, or 1% to 2,917.75. The Dow gained 353.01 points, or 1.4%, to 26,465.54. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, jumped 108.86 points, or 1.4%, to 7,953.88.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 17.48 points, or 1.1%, to 1,550.23.

It was the second straight gain for the market, extending a strong rebound for stocks in June after a steep sell-off last month.

The benchmark S&P 500 is now less than 1% below its all-time high set on April 30. The Dow is 1.4% below its record high set October 3. The Nasdaq is about 2.5% below its record close set on May 3.

The wave of buying got its start overseas early Tuesday after the remarks from the head of the ECB. Major indexes in Europe closed sharply higher.

President Donald Trump stirred fresh optimism among investors when he said he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at an international summit in Japan. U.S. businesses have implored Trump to stop escalating the trade war and refrain from expanding his tariffs to $300 billion on goods from China.

A prospective meeting between the U.S. and China's leaders is welcome news for a market that has been searching for some direction. "If you think back a week ago, there was a fear they wouldn't even talk at all," said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

Investors were also looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's next interest rate policy announcement Wednesday, with many betting the central bank is headed for its first interest rate cut in over a decade.

Two weeks ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell set off a rally on Wall Street after he signaled that the central bank is willing to cut interest rates to help stabilize the economy if the trade war between Washington and Beijing starts to crimp growth. Any continued escalations could put the brakes on what is poised to be the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.

Most analysts say they think economic growth has slowed sharply in the April-June quarter to around a 1.5% percent annual rate, only half the pace of the past year.

Investors collectively envision a Fed rate cut by July and possibly further cuts after that. Some are even betting on a rate cut this week. Many economists, though, think the Fed will wait until September at the earliest to announce its first drop in its benchmark short-term interest rate since 2008 and might not cut again in 2019. A few Fed watchers foresee no rate cut at all this year.

"I don't know that the Fed is going to deliver what investors want because the market looks fairly frothy at the moment," Carlisle said.

Technology sector stocks powered much of the rally Tuesday. Apple gained 2.4% and chipmakers Intel and Nvidia rose 2.7% and 5.4%, respectively. Google's parent company, Alphabet added 1%.

Banks rose. JPMorgan Chase picked up 1.4% and Bank of America rose 2.5%.

Industrial and consumer-related stocks also made big gains. General Electric climbed 3.7%, Caterpillar rose 2.4%, and Nike added 2.7%.

Utilities and consumer products companies ended lower, a sign that investors were stepping back from the safe-play sectors and taking on more risk.

SM Energy climbed 6.6% after the oil and natural gas company raised production forecasts for the second quarter and full year.

U.S. government bond prices rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.06%, below the 2.08% it traded at late Monday. That's still well below the 2.21% yield on the three-month Treasury bill.

Benchmark crude oil rose 3.8% to settle at $53.90 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 2% to close at $62.14 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.8% to $1.72 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 1.6% to $1.83 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2.4% to $2.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold edged down 0.6% to $1,350.70 per ounce, silver rose 1.1% to $14.99 per ounce and copper rose 2.1% to $2.70 per pound.

The dollar fell to 108.44 Japanese yen from 108.57 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1196 from $1.1216.

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