Optimism Over U.S.-China Trade Talks Boosts Stocks Again

NEW YORK (AP) -

Stocks finished broadly higher Wednesday as investors remained optimistic that the U.S. and China will make more progress in resolving their costly trade dispute.

Energy companies, retailers and industrial stocks accounted for much of the broad gains as the market extended its winning streak to a fourth day.

Key officials from the world’s two largest economies will meet Thursday and Friday to try and stave off an escalation of a trade conflict that has hurt companies and consumers by raising prices on a number of products. President Donald Trump has said he might let a March 2 deadline slide if the U.S. and China get close to a deal.

The S&P 500 index gained 8.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,753.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 117.51 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,543.27. The Nasdaq composite added 5.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,420.38. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks, which has been leading the other indexes this year, added 4.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,542.94.

Major indexes in Europe also finished broadly higher, despite a report of slumping industrial output across the 19 countries that use the euro.

The market briefly lost some of that momentum around midmorning Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced over Twitter plans to introduce a bill aimed at deterring companies from buying back their own stock. Rubiosaid the argument that stock buybacks free up money for companies to reinvest in growth “isn’t backed up by the facts.”

Rubio’s remarks come as corporate stock buybacks hit new highs last year.

Buybacks, in which companies purchase their own shares and retire them, are popular with investors since fewer shares outstanding lifts earnings per share.

Investors continued to evaluate the latest batch of quarterly results Wednesday.

Higher room rates pushed hotel operator Hilton Worldwide to a strong fourth-quarter profit, beating analysts’ forecasts. The company also gave Wall Street a strong profit forecast for the current quarter. Hilton’s stock rose 6.8 percent and competitor Marriott International added 3.6 percent.

Groupon slumped 11.1 percent after the online daily deal service came up short of analysts’ profit forecasts for the quarter. Customer traffic in its key North America market fell, dragging down revenue.

TripAdvisor slid 5.7 percent after the travel website operator reported weak fourth-quarter profit and lower revenue from its key hotel bookings segment.

U.S. benchmark crude rose 1.5 percent to settle at $53.90 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 1.9 percent to close at $63.61 a barrel in London.

The pickup in oil prices gave a boost to energy stocks. Exxon Mobil rose 1.1 percent.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.70 percent from 2.68 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar rose to 110.99 yen from 110.52 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1271 from $1.1331.

Gold added 0.1 percent to $1,315.10 an ounce. Silver slipped 0.2 percent to $15.65 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.77 a pound.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline added 2.7 percent to $1.47 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 1.7 percent to $1.94 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 4.2 percent to $2.58 per 1,000 cubic feet.