US STOCKS-Wall St soars to record high on trade optimism, tech bounce

By Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew

Jan 9 (Reuters) – U.S.stocks hit record highs on Thursday as Middle East tensions eased, optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal firmed and several brokerages boosted price targets on high-profile companies.

Investors snapped up market heavyweights including Apple Inc , Microsoft Corp, Inc, Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc, lifting their shares between 0.9% and 2.0%.

Apple gained on twin support from data showing iPhone sales jumped more than 18% in China in December, as well as a price target hike by Jefferies on expectations of a strong finish to 2019.

Cowen Equity Research raised its price target on Alphabet, Facebook, and Twitter Inc after its survey of buyers showed upbeat spending in 2020. Technology stocks rose 1%, the most among the major S&P sectors.

After a wobbly start to the new year on fears of an all-out conflict in the Middle East, nerves eased as Washington and Tehran looked to defuse the crisis after Iran’s retaliatory attack following the U.S.killing of a top Iranian general.

In another support to stocks, China’s commerce ministry said Vice Premier Liu He will sign a Phase 1 deal in Washington next week.

“The fear of a new Middle East war was taken off the table and the assertion that China is going to ink a deal with America kind of gives a path to growth globally,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.

“And it’s January – people tend to put money into the market and that tends to drive it up.”

At 11:29 a.m.ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 182.22 points, or 0.63%, at 28,927.31, the S&P 500 was up 17.59 points, or 0.54%, at 3,270.64 and kontol gede the Nasdaq Composite was up 70.40 points, or 0.77%, at 9,199.64.

Among the weak spots was the department store operator Kohl’s Corp, which slid 9.2% after reporting lower holiday season sales.

Smaller rival J.C.Penney Co Inc dropped 10.8% after disappointing same-store sales numbers.

With the fourth-quarter earnings season kicking off next week, analysts expect profits for S&P 500 companies to drop 0.6% in their second consecutive quarterly decline, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.39-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.68-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 67 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 129 new highs and 8 new lows.(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)

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