Optimism over US-China trade talks boosts stocks again

Stocks extended their gains in afternoon trading on Wall Street Wednesday as investors remained optimistic that the U.S. and China will make more progress in resolving their costly trade dispute.

Banks and technology and energy companies accounted for much of the market’s broad gains, a sign that traders expect the economy to remain healthy.

Government forecasters are sticking to their forecast that the United States, already the world’s biggest oil producer, will become a net exporter of crude and petroleum products in 2020.

Key officials from the world’s two largest economies will meet Thursday and Friday to try and stave off an escalation of a trade conflict that has hurt companies and consumers by raising prices on a number of products. President Donald Trump has said he might let a March 2 deadline slide if the U.S. and China get close to a deal.

After March 2, additional tariffs are scheduled to kick in, making the situation worse. Economists and analysts are optimistic that both sides will eventually hammer out an agreement that satisfies U.S. complaints that China steals or pressures U.S. companies to hand over technology.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies are nearing the end of a relatively strong earnings season. Hotel operator Hilton gained after reporting profit and revenue that easily beat analysts’ forecasts. Groupon fell as lower sales resulted in weak fourth-quarter profit.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 86 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,512 as of 1:10 p.m. The S&P 500 index, which is on a three-day winning streak, gained 0.3 percent. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2 percent.

LEVEL UP: Video game maker Activision Blizzard gained 4.4 percent as it moved to layoff nearly 800 workers, in part to deal with a steep downturn in revenue following the best year in its history. The maker

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