US stocks climb ahead of China trade talks; Walmart surges

FILE- In this April 26, 2018, file photo, Vincent Pepe enjoys some fresh air outside the New York Stock Exchange where he works trading cotton shares for VLM Commodities in the Financial District in New York. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Aug 16. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are surging Thursday as China and the U.S. prepare to hold their first trade discussions in months, a potential sign of progress toward ending the trade war between them. Walmart is surging after the retailer said its sales climbed in second quarter. Metals prices rose sharply, a day after a big drop, and the price of crude oil moved higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index climbed 28 points, or 1 percent, to 2,846 as of 12:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 401 points, or 1.6 percent, to 25,563 as Walmart and Boeing made big gains. The Nasdaq composite rose 65 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,839. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 18 points, or 1.1 percent to 1,689.

It’s the latest wild swing for stocks. The S&P 500 is on track for its biggest gain since June 1 just a day after its biggest loss in six weeks. Stocks slumped Friday and Monday as investors worried about Turkey’s currency crisis, then rebounded Tuesday only to fall again Wednesday on rising concerns about China’s economic growth.

TRADE HOPES: China will send a trade envoy to Washington in late August in a new attempt to end the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. The countries are in conflict over technology policy and China’s trade surplus with the U.S.

The two sides haven’t held talks since early June. After those talks, both countries put taxes on $34 billion in each other’s imports. Those taxes are set to rise next week, and both countries have threatened even larger increases.

WOW FOR WALMART: Walmart posted some of its strongest sales growth in a decade and its online revenue grew 40 percent, a faster pace than it reported in the first quarter. The stock jumped 10 percent to $99.24, which wiped out its losses from earlier this year.

Other retailers and consumer goods companies also edged higher. Target added 1.6 percent to $82 and Procter & Gamble rose 1.7 percent to $83.67. Amazon climbed 1 percent to $1,901.21.

SOFTWARE SURGE: Symantec jumped 7.1 percent to $19.88 after the activist investment firm Starboard Value disclosed a 5.8 percent stake in the company and said it plans to nominate five directors for spots on Symantec’s board of directors. Symantec said it has been talking to Starboard for the past several weeks and is evaluating the candidates it nominated.

DEPARTMENT STORES DUMPED: J.C. Penney tumbled 24.7 percent to $1.82 after it took a bigger loss than analysts expected and reported weaker sales. The chain also cut its forecasts for the year again. Dillard’s dropped 14.9 percent to $70.63 after its report.

Department stores have made big gains this year, but they dropped Wednesday after Macy’s said its sales growth slowed during the second quarter. Macy’s inched up 1.1 percent to $35.55 after a 16 percent plunge the day before. Nordstrom was unchanged at $41.84 and Kohl’s lost another 0.6 percent to $73.29.

COMMODITIES: Oil prices were steady after a sharp drop a day earlier. U.S. crude inched up 0.7 percent to $65.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, picked up 0.5 percent to $71.09 per barrel.

Metals prices also turned higher. Copper jumped 2.6 percent to $2.63 a pound. That made up for much of Wednesday’s loss, but copper prices are still down 20 percent since early June.

BONDS: Bond prices turned lower again. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.89 percent from 2.85 percent. That helped send bank stocks higher. JPMorgan Chase rose 1.2 percent to $115.09 and Bank of America added 1.3 percent to $30.76.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.09 yen from 110.57 yen. The euro rose to $1.1378 from $1.1346.

OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX added 0.6 percent and in France the CAC 40 rose 0.8 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rallied 0.8 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.8 percent. South Korea’s Kospi reopened from a holiday and tumbled 0.8 percent.