Banks and health carecompanies led stocks broadly higher on Thursday, ending a four-day losing streak for the benchmark S&P 500 index.
The gains after a mostly wobbly week of trading reflect cautious optimism on the part of investors ahead of a key trade meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China set for this weekend.
The trade war between the world's two biggest economies remains the biggest source of uncertainty looming over Wall Street. Investors are worried the fallout from the tariffs imposed by each countries on the other's goods could hurt global economic growth and corporate profits.
“Investors are in a wait-and-see mode in advance of the G-20 meetings,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. “The reason we're seeing stocks slightly higher today is they're anticipating that Trump and Xi will at least agree not to impose additional tariffs.”
The S&P 500 index rose 11.14 points, or 0.4%, to 2,924.92. The index is up 6.3% for the month, with only one day left of trading in June.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 10.24 points, or less than 0.1%, to 26,526.58. The Nasdaq composite gained 57.79, or 0.7%, to 7,967.76. Smaller company stocks did far better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 28.78 points, or 1.9%, to 1,546.55.
Major indexes in Europe ended mixed.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.01% from 2.04% late Wednesday.
The market's trajectory has been unsteady for much of this week, often starting strong and then losing momentum toward the end of trading. Investors have been mostly looking ahead to this weekend's meeting between Trump and Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.
The meeting marks the first opportunity the two leaders have had to discuss their differences on trade face to face since Trump said he was preparing to target the $300 billion in Chinese imports on which he hasn’t already imposed tariffs, extending them to everything China ships to the United States.
Despite worries over trade, investors have mostly pushed stocks higher this month as the Federal Reserve raised expectations that it is prepared to cut interest rates to shield the economy if the damage from the costly trade conflict worsens.
Every major index is on track to register gains of more than 6% for the month, despite having declined roughly 1% so far this week.
Banks were the biggest gainers Thursday. Bank of America and Wells Fargo each rose 1.1%.
Healthcare stocks gained momentum throughout the day. AbbVie climbed 2.9%, one of the biggest gainers in the sector. The company is in the process of buying Botox maker Allergan for $63 billion. Other healthcare stocks also rose. CVS Health gained 1.9% and Humana picked up 1.2%.
Traders signaled a greater appetite for risk by snapping up stocks known for higher growth, including smaller-company stocks.
Technology stocks also rose. Chipmakers, which have much to gain or lose from the result of the U.S.-China trade negotiations, were particularly strong. Micron Technology climbed 2.8% and Nvidia rose 2.5%.
Utilities and makers of consumer products eked out small gains in another sign that investors were shifting away from safe-play holdings.
Energy stocks lagged behind the broader market. ConocoPhillips slid 2.4%.
Boeing helped pull the Dow into the red after the airplane maker said a new software problem has been found in its troubled 737 Max aircraft.
Government test pilots trying out Boeing's updated Max software in a flight simulator last week found a flaw that could result in the plane's nose pitching down. The aircraft has been grounded worldwide after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. The company is also facing calls for more pilot training on the aircraft, which could be costly. Boeing shares slid 2.9%.
A report showing that more Americans signed contracts to buy a home in May than in the previous month helped spur a broad rally among home builders. The data signal that would-be home buyers may be ready to take advantage of low interest rates and stabilizing prices. Builder New Home Co. led the pack, vaulting 11.1%.
KB Home jumped 7.9% after it blew past Wall Street's profit forecasts for its fiscal second quarter.
The company reported growth in orders for new homes. KB and its peers have also reported a slight decrease in home prices, which also helps potential home buyers.
Chef Boyardee and Peter Pan peanut butter maker Conagra Brands slumped 12.1%, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, after its latest quarterly results fell short of Wall Street's expectations.
The company, along with other large processed food makers, has been struggling to compete amid shifting consumer trends to seemingly healthier food options.
In commodities trading, benchmark crude oil rose 5 cents to settle at $59.43 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 6 cents to close at $66.55 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.95 per gallon. Heating oil declined 2 cents to $1.95 per gallon. Natural gas climbed 6 cents to $2.32 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold fell $3.10 to $1,408.40 per ounce, silver fell 9 cents to $15.21 per ounce and copper was unchanged at $2.71 per pound.