US stocks hold on to much of an early rally; Oil prices fall

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U.S. stocks edged higher in morning trading Thursday after paring some early gains as traders returned from the Independence Day holiday. Gains in technology and health care stocks outweighed losses in industrials companies and elsewhere. Energy stocks also declined along with crude oil prices. Investors were girding for more global trade tensions Friday, when U.S. tariffs on billions in Chinese imports are set to kick in.

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KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 11 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,724 as of 11:29 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 108 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,283. The Nasdaq added 39 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,542. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,664.

U.S.-CHINA TRADE TIFF: On Friday the U.S. is set to impose a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. And China is expected to strike back with tariffs on a similar amount of U.S. exports. The big question is how far the two countries will go in their dispute over trade. On Thursday in China, Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng hit back at “threats and blackmail” ahead of the planned U.S. tariff hike. He added that China would be forced to fight back to protect its own interests.

TECH RALLY: Technology stocks posted solid gains. Chipmaker Micron Technology rose 2 percent to $52.49.

HEALTHY MOVE: Several health care sector stocks also helped lift the market. Biotechnology company Biogen gained 1 percent to $296.37.

CHAPTER CLOSED: Barnes & Noble added 0.9 percent to $5.90 after the company fired its CEO late Tuesday.

CHECKERED FLAG: International Speedway jumped 4.7 percent to $47.48 after the car racing and entertainment company posted earnings and revenue

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