Wall Street extends rally, elevated by Apple and chipmakers

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Wall Street extends rally, elevated by Apple and chipmakers

By Noel Randewich

(Reuters) – Wall Street rallied for a fourth session on Wednesday, led by Apple, chipmakers and other trade-sensitive stocks, after signs of progress in trade talks between the United States and China.

The market saw a further slight boost after the U.S. Federal Reserve released minutes showing a range of policymakers said in December they could be patient about future interest rate increases and a few did not support the central bank's rate increase that month.

The benchmark S&P 500 (SPX) is up about 10 percent from a 20-month low it touched around Christmas, boosted by hopes for a deal between the world's two largest economies, which eased some worries over the impact of the trade spat on global growth.

Market participants were also encouraged by strong U.S. jobs data and other recent indications the Federal Reserve is in no rush to raise interest rates.

China pledged to purchase "a substantial amount" of agricultural, energy and manufactured goods and services from the United States, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said, as talks wrapped up in Beijing.

The S&P technology index (SPLRCT) rose 1.60 percent, leading other sectors.

Apple Inc (O:AAPL) added 2.3 percent despite a Nikkei report that the company had reduced planned production for its three new iPhone models for the January-March quarter.

The company's shares tumbled about 10 percent last week after it warned on holiday quarter sales and its suppliers, which largely include chipmakers, took another beating on Tuesday after Samsung Electronics (KS:005930) flagged weak chip demand.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor index (SOX) gained 2.60 percent. Chipmakers are among the U.S. multinationals with the highest revenue exposure to China.

"If you want to gauge how investors are viewing the trade talks, just walk tech, and semiconductors in particular," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

Shares of Boeing Co (N:BA), which also has a large exposure to China, climbed 1.07 percent, with the S&P industrial index (SPLRCI) gaining 0.93 percent.

The CBOE Volatility index (VIX), often referred to as an investor fear gauge, dropped half-a-point to a one-month low of 19.88.

At 2:07 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was up 0.7 percent at 23,954.59 points, while the S&P 500 (SPX) had gained 0.68 percent to 2,591.9.

The Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) added 1.15 percent to 6,975.98.

Financial stocks (SPSY) rose 0.75 percent.

Several Fed policymakers said they could wait on any further interest rate hikes until they had a better handle on whether growing risks will undercut an otherwise solid U.S. economic outlook.

"A more stable Fed is going to lead to more stable markets over time," said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer at Penn Mutual Asset Management in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

"Some of the sharp moves in the market were driven by the fact that Fed tightening is starting to have an impact on economic growth and financial conditions."

Shares in Constellation Brands Inc (N:STZ) sank 11 percent, dragging down the consumer staples index (SPLRCS), after the Corona brewer cut its fiscal 2019 profit outlook.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.26-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.82-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 23 new highs and 5 new lows.

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