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Wall Street crawls to record levels on trade hopes

By Chuck Mikolajczak
FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor at the NYSE in New York

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks crawled higher on Tuesday, and all three major Wall Street indexes notched record levels, as upbeat comments by President Donald Trump on trade talks eclipsed some softer-than-anticipated economic data.

Trump said the United States and China were close to an agreement on the first phase of a deal, while stressing Washington's support for protesters in Hong Kong, a point of contention between the world's two largest economies.

"Right now the characterization is things are pretty good so we are kind of gaining on it, but until it is done, it is not done," said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments in Charlotte, North Carolina. "So a holding pattern is probably, unfortunately, a very appropriate place for the market to be right about now."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 55.21 points, or 0.2%, to 28,121.68, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 6.88 points, or 0.22%, to 3,140.52 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 15.45 points, or 0.18%, to 8,647.93.

Walt Disney Co <DIS.N> gained 1.30% after a report that its streaming service was averaging nearly 1 million new subscribers a day. The stock helped keep the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the plus side, providing about 20 points to the upside.

Rising hopes for a trade deal between the world's two largest economies, solid U.S. economic indicators and a third-quarter corporate earnings season that has largely topped lowered expectations have pushed stocks higher. The three major indexes have now notched a record close in five of the past eight sessions.

Also supporting stocks has been the dovish turn by the Federal Reserve, which has cut interest rates three times this year. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Monday that monetary policy was "well positioned" to support the strong labour market.

Investors are watching for signs on the health of the consumer for the holiday shopping season. Consumer confidence fell for a fourth straight month in November but remained at levels sufficient to support a steady pace of consumer spending, according to data on Tuesday. A separate report showed that new home sales unexpectedly dropped in October, although data for the prior month was revised up, with purchases hitting their highest level in over 12 years.

Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher. The consumer discretionary sector <.SPLRCD> rose 0.81% and provided the biggest boost, led by a 9.86% jump in shares of Best Buy Co Inc <BBY.N> following a strong holiday-quarter profit forecast.

In contrast, Dollar Tree Inc <DLTR.O> tumbled 15.24% after it projected holiday-quarter profit below estimates, signalling the fallout from the trade dispute.

Best Buy was the best performer on the S&P 500, while Dollar Tree was the biggest drag on both the S&P and the Nasdaq.

Among other stocks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co <HPE.N> fell 8.48% as the enterprise software maker missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.96 billion shares, compared to the 7.12 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days. Trading volume is expected to lighten considerably in the sessions surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 36 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 120 new highs and 66 new lows.


(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)