Signs of progress in trade talks prop up Wall Street


By Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 22 () - U.S. stocks rose on Friday on signs of progress in the ongoing trade talks between the United States and China, but a plunge in shares of Kraft Heinz hit the consumer staples sector.

Top trade negotiators from the two countries haggled over the details of a set of agreements aimed at ending their trade war, just one week before a Washington-imposed deadline for a deal expires and triggers higher U.S. tariffs.

The benchmark S&P 500 index's recent run of gains was halted on Thursday after a batch of grim economic data, including a surprise fall in new orders for key U.S.-made capital goods. However, the index is still at more than two-month highs.

"The market has shifted from economic worries encountered yesterday to the possibility of a breakthrough in the trade talks," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

"We're recovering from yesterday's sell-off and the main focus is trade."

Kraft Heinz Co tumbled 26.9 percent, weighing the most on the S&P 500 index, along with a 1.9 percent fall in class B shares of the company's controlling stakeholder, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The packaged food company posted a quarterly loss, disclosed an SEC probe and wrote down the value of its iconic Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands.

The S&P consumer staples sector slipped 0.49 percent, the most among the 11 major sectors, followed by a 0.29 percent drop in financials.

Kraft Heinz rivals General Mills, Conagra Brands and Kellogg Co fell between 3.7 percent and 4 percent.

At 10:00 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 109.21 points, or 0.42 percent, at 25,959.84. The S&P 500 was up 10.25 points, or 0.37 percent, at 2,785.13 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 36.32 points, or 0.49 percent, at 7,496.02.

Trade-sensitive industrials sector inched up 0.15 percent, with bellwether Boeing Co up 0.8 percent.

Oil stocks gained 0.55 percent as crude prices rose to 2019 highs on hopes that Washington and Beijing may soon end their trade dispute.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index gained 0.67 percent, led by Intel Corp's 2.2 percent rise after Morgan Stanley lifted its rating to "overweight".

The technology sector gained 0.97 percent, lifted by chipmakers and technology heavyweights Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp.

Newmont Mining Corp rose 3.1 percent after Canada'sBarrick Gold Corp confirmed that it was considering an all-stock bid for the company.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.38-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.94-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 42 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 64 new highs and 14 new lows.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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