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Tech companies lead stocks higher as optimism grows about U.S.-EU trade

Steven Kaplan
Trader Steven Kaplan works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Technology companies led a broad rally in U.S. stocks Wednesday that gave the market its third consecutive gain and nudged the Nasdaq composite to an all-time high.

The major stock indexes jumped in the last half-hour of trading amid reports that a meeting between President Trump and a European Union trade delegation had yielded an agreement to work on averting a budding dispute between the two trading partners.

Healthcare and industrial stocks posted solid gains. Phone companies and other high-dividend, traditionally safer-play stocks lagged behind the broader market. Homebuilders slumped on government data showing that sales of new U.S. homes fell in June.

Before the developments out of Washington, stocks held on to modest gains for most of the day as investors drew encouragement from quarterly corporate earnings results.

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“Tariffs haven’t had an enormous impact on earnings, particularly in the manufacturing sector,” said Jeramey Lynch, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “We haven’t seen that so far. Earnings have still been strong because the potential impacts so far of tariffs are being more than offset by what we see as a very favorable macroeconomic backdrop.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index notched its best day in more than a month, climbing 25.67 points, or 0.9%, to 2,846.07. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 172.16 points, or 0.7%, to 25,414.10. The Nasdaq jumped 91.47 points, or 1.2%, to 7,932.24. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks followed its worst day in a month with a gain of 5.01 points, or 0.3%, to 1,685.20.

The S&P 500, the market’s benchmark index, is on track for its fourth weekly gain in a row.

Investors have been focused this week on company earnings, which have mostly topped Wall Street’s expectations. At the same time, traders are still wary of global trade tensions, which have ratcheted up in recent weeks as the United States and some of its trading partners have imposed tariffs on certain products and threatened more.

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That’s why news that the United States and the EU are working to mend their frayed trade relationship injected a wave of hopeful buying into the market.

Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said Wednesday afternoon that the EU had agreed to buy “a lot of soybeans” and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States. Juncker, meanwhile, said the U.S. and EU had agreed to hold off on further tariffs as part of trade talks aimed at averting a crippling trade dispute involving the lucrative automobile market.

“We remind investors only that the devil remains in the details,” Terry Haines, macro research analyst at Evercore ISI, wrote in a research note.

The latest wave of corporate report cards also had traders in a buying mood Wednesday, with the technology sector accounting for most of the market’s gains. Corning leaped 11.3% to $33.21.

HCA Healthcare jumped 9.2% to $118.13 after the hospital operator turned in quarterly results that were better than analysts expected.

Coca-Cola rose 1.8% to $46.09 after it served quarterly earnings and revenue that topped analysts’ forecasts. It noted that its diet sodas are selling better after undergoing some image changes.

Not all companies’ reports inspired investors to buy.

General Motors slumped 4.6% to $37.65 after the automaker cut its outlook for the year, mostly because of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The diminished expectations overshadowed GM’s strong second-quarter results.

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Boeing reported quarterly results that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, but the aerospace giant also cut its revenue projections for its defense business. Shares fell 0.7% to $355.92.

Tupperware plunged 16.4% to $34.09 after the container-maker reported weaker-than-expected sales and lowered its annual forecasts.

Of the roughly 23.6% of the companies in the S&P 500 that had issued quarterly results as of early Wednesday, some 71% reported earnings and revenue that beat analysts’ forecasts, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

It was a rough day for homebuilders. Those stocks slumped after the Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes fell 5.3% last month, even though buyers continue to outnumber sellers in a still-tight housing market. Beazer Homes USA tumbled 7.7% to $13.28.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 78 cents, or 1.1%, to $69.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 49 cents to $73.93 a barrel in London. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $2.15 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.12 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $2.78 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.96% from 2.95%.

The dollar fell to 110.83 yen from 111.22 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1699 from $1.1683.

Gold rose $6.30 to $1,231.80 an ounce. Silver rose 7 cents to $15.59 an ounce. Copper rose 1 cent to $2.82 a pound.

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