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Stocks climb as markets cap turbulent quarter with calm end

Wall Street
Outside the New York Stock Exchange.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

U.S. stocks climbed on Monday and gave one last nudge to ensure the S&P 500 emerged from yet another tumultuous quarter with a modest gain.

As has been the case throughout the quarter, movements in President Trump’s trade war with China helped drive the market. Investors found encouragement after China said that its top trade negotiator will lead talks with the United States that are expected to take place next week. The Trump administration also calmed some worries that it may limit U.S. investment in Chinese companies.

The developments helped push technology stocks higher. Those companies often move along with news about trade because of how reliant they are on China as both a customer and a supplier.

The S&P 500 climbed 14.95 points, or 0.5%, to 2,976.74. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 96.58, or 0.4%, to 26,916.83, and the Nasdaq composite added 59.71, or 0.8%, to 7,999.34.

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The moves left the S&P 500 with a 1.2% gain for the quarter. That was its smallest quarterly gain this year, but the index had been on track for a much worse performance just a month ago.

Trump shocked markets in August when he said he’d raise tariffs on Chinese goods, and the announcement sent stocks and bond yields reeling. The S&P 500 dropped more than 6% in the weeks following July 26, when it set its last record. But stocks began climbing again in September as both sides made conciliatory moves to ease tensions.

Yields, meanwhile, remained lower for the quarter after the Federal Reserve cut short-term rates twice. They were the first rate cuts for the Fed since the financial crisis was swamping the economy in 2008. Across the Atlantic, the European Central Bank was likewise working to keep rates low in hopes of shoring up a slowing global economy.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 1.65% from 1.67% late Friday. At the end of the last quarter, it was at 2%.

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Don’t expect the tumult to end with the close of the quarter. Aside from the U.S.-China talks, the next three months have plenty of events on the schedule to keep markets on edge. Beyond the United Kingdom’s pending exit from the European Union, investors are also waiting to see whether Germany will enter a recession and how the new incoming head of the European Central Bank performs. Closer to home, the impeachment inquiry into Trump could create even more uncertainty.

Last year, the S&P 500 slumped 14% in the fourth quarter for its worst performance in seven years when fear spiked that the Federal Reserve’s plans to keep raising interest rates and a slowing global economy would knock the United States into a recession.

This time around, the Federal Reserve has shifted gears, and many investors expect the central bank to cut rates at least one more time this year. That could help support markets, even with all the potential flash points on the calendar.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.84 to settle at $54.07 a barrel Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $1.13 to $60.78 a barrel.

Gold fell $33.40 to $1,465.70 an ounce and silver fell 65 cents to $16.90 an ounce.

The dollar rose to 108.07 Japanese yen from 107.81 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.0902 from $1.0941.


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