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Stocks climb, breaking five-day losing streak

Stocks climb, breaking five-day losing streak
The facade of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

A rebound by technology companies and banks helped reverse an early slide for U.S. stocks Thursday, breaking the market’s five-day losing streak.

Healthcare and industrial stocks also rose, offsetting losses by retailers, homebuilders, utilities and other sectors. Energy stocks also helped lift the market as the price of U.S. crude oil rose for the second straight day.

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British bank stocks plunged and the British pound slumped amid discord over a new deal for Britain's departure from the European Union next spring.

The late-in-the-session U.S. market rebound marked stocks’ latest episode of volatile trading this week.

“We're going back and forth between days when investors are taking risk off and days when they're taking risk back on,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private clients at Glenmede. “We're probably going to go through a period of this basically because it's hard for investors to figure out where we are at this stage of the economic cycle.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 28.62 points, or 1.1%, to 2,730.20. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 208.77 points, or 0.8%, to 25,289.27. The Nasdaq composite advanced 122.64 points, or 1.7%, to 7,259.03. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies climbed 21.62 points, or 1.4%, to 1,524.12.

Thursday's market rebound coincided with a Financial Times report citing unnamed sources that said the United States' trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has told some executives that a planned escalation in January of U.S. tariffs on goods from China are now on hold.

“This bit of information helped to move the market higher today, especially technology stocks,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The Trump administration has imposed a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods over complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology as the price of market access. That tariff had been due to rise to 25% in January. An additional $50 billion worth of Chinese goods already is subject to 25% duties. Beijing has responded with penalty duties on $110 billion worth of American goods.

Washington and Beijing resumed talks over their spiraling trade dispute this week ahead of a meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Trump, China's Commerce Ministry said Thursday.

Tech stocks accounted for much of the market's gain. Cisco Systems climbed 5.5% to $46.77 the day after posting quarterly results that beat Wall Street's forecasts.

Financial stocks rebounded after Wednesday’s heavy losses. JPMorgan Chase rose 2.6% to $110.07.

Several big retailers slumped. Dillard's slid 14.8% to $62.85 after its quarterly earnings fell far short of what investors expected. Macy's fell 2.9% to $32.27. Nordstrom fell 3.5% to $58.99.

Home builders fell too. KB Home plunged 15.3% to $17.61, its steepest drop in more than three years, after the Los Angeles home builder said new-home orders are down sharply in its current quarter compared with a year ago. Its revenue projection for the quarter also fell below analysts' estimates.

Other major home builders also skidded. Toll Bros. slid 5.9% to $29.94. Lennar fell 5% to $39.53.

A strong economy and job market helped boost home sales earlier this year, but rising mortgage rates and home prices are becoming hurdles for many would-be buyers. The annual rate of new U.S home sales has dropped 15.3% since May, eliminating much of the strength in sales from the first five months of 2018.

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Pacific Gas & Electric plunged 30.7% to $17.74 — falling for the sixth straight day — as concerns mounted over whether the utility could sustain losses related to the devastating Camp wildfire in Northern California. The company's stock price has plunged 63% since the fire began Nov. 8, wiping out $15.6 billion of market value.

Oil prices closed higher for the second straight day. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 0.4% to settle at $56.46 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 0.8% to close at $66.62 a barrel in London.

Despite the rise, U.S. crude oil is still down about 13.5% for the month.

Natural gas, which spiked Wednesday amid forecasts calling for a cold snap across much of the Northeast and South, slumped 16.5% to $4.04 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 1% to $2.07 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline slipped 0.3% to $1.56 a gallon.

Energy stocks got a boost from the rise in oil prices. Noble Energy shares rose 3.1% to $29.50.

Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury fell to 3.11% from 3.12%.

The dollar rose to 113.58 yen from 113.51 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1348 from $1.1338. The pound weakened to $1.2791 from $1.3038.

The price of gold rose 0.4% to $1,215 an ounce. Silver rose 1.3% to $14.26 an ounce. Copper rose 1.3% to $2.75 a pound.

Major European stock indexes closed mostly lower after a flare-up in discord over British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Britain's departure from the European Union next year. She persuaded a majority in her Cabinet to back an agreement that would allow Britain to stay in a customs union while a trade treaty is negotiated, but the deal faces an uncertain fate in Parliament, and two of her Cabinet ministers, including the “Brexit minister,” resigned in protest.

The disarray surrounding the process sent the pound lower and hit British bank stocks. Barclay's slid 5.1% to $8.54, and Royal Bank of Scotland slumped 8.9% to $5.93.

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

This article was originally published at 1:20 p.m.

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