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Stocks jump as hopes grow for U.S.-China trade talks

Stocks jump as hopes grow for U.S.-China trade talks
Trader Jonathan Corpina works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

U.S. stocks jumped Thursday as China and the United States said they will hold their first trade discussions in months, a potential sign of progress toward ending their trade war.

China is to send a trade envoy to Washington this month in a new attempt to end the trade dispute before it causes major damage to the global economy. The two sides haven't talked since early June. Energy and metals prices and shares of industrial companies turned higher.

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Walmart soared after reporting unusually strong growth in sales. Other companies that make and sell basic necessities rose too.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 22.32 points, or 0.8%, to 2,840.69. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 396.32 points, or 1.6%, to 25,558.73 as Walmart and Boeing made big gains. The Nasdaq composite rose 32.41 points, or 0.4%, to 7,806.52.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 15.09 points, or 0.9% to 1,685.75.

Jason Draho, the head of asset allocation for UBS, said investors are eager for the United States and China to start making progress and resolve their differences. He added that China may be changing course because its economy has slowed.

“The data we've seen from China recently has showed slowing growth,” he said. “It's possible they decided, ‘OK, we need to take a different approach,’ and come to the table offering a little more.”

China and the United States have been in conflict for months over issues including Beijing's technology policy and its trade surplus with the United States. After the latest round of talks failed to produce much progress, each country put taxes on $34 billion worth of imports from the other.

Those tariffs are set to rise next week, and both countries have threatened even larger increases as early as September.

Walmart posted its biggest gain in more than a decade in sales at stores open at least a year, and its online revenue grew 40%, a faster pace than it reported in the first quarter. The stock jumped 9.3% to $98.64, which wiped out its losses from earlier this year.

Other retailers and consumer goods companies rose too. Target climbed 1.7% to $82.07. Procter & Gamble climbed 1.7% to $83.69. McDonald's rose 1.2% to $161.73.

J.C. Penney tumbled 27% to $1.76 after it posted a bigger loss than analysts expected and reported weaker sales. The chain also cut its forecasts for the year again. Dillard's dropped 8.7% to $75.80 after its report.

Other than Penney, most department store stocks have jumped this year. They dropped Wednesday after Macy's said its sales growth slowed during the second quarter.

Macy's inched up 1.9% on Thursday to $35.81 after plunging 16% the day before. Nordstrom and Kohl's managed small gains.

Symantec rose 4.6% to $19.41 after activist investment firm Starboard Value disclosed an investment in the security software firm and said it plans to nominate five directors for spots on Symantec's board of directors. Symantec said it has been talking to Starboard for several weeks.

Chipotle slid 4.4% to $502.70 after Ohio heath officials said tests tied to one of the chain’s restaurants came back positive for clostridium perfringens, an illness that occurs when food is left at unsafe temperatures.

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Teva Pharmaceutical Industries jumped 7.3% to $24.11 after U.S. health officials approved its generic version of EpiPen, the emergency allergy medication made by Mylan. The injections are stocked by schools and parents to treat allergic reactions to food and bug bites.

Banks rallied as interest rates increased. Bond prices turned lower again. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.87% from 2.85%.

Oil prices were steady after dropping sharply the day before. U.S. crude rose 0.7% to settle at $65.46 a barrel. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose 0.9% to $71.43 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline slipped 0.5% to $1.99 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.3% to $2.10 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.1% to $2.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold slipped 0.1% to $1,184 an ounce. Silver rose 1.8% to $14.71 an ounce. Copper climbed 2.2% to $2.62 a pound; that made up for much of Wednesday's loss, but copper prices are still down 20% since early June.

The dollar rose to 110.88 yen from 110.57 yen. The euro rose to $1.1365 from $1.1346.

Stocks have swung wildly over the last week.

Global markets slumped Friday and Monday as investors worried about Turkey's currency crisis. They rebounded Tuesday, only to fall again Wednesday — taking their biggest loss in six weeks — on rising concerns about China's economic growth.

Thursday marked the Dow's largest gain since April.

2:50 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

This article was originally published at 9:10 a.m.

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