US STOCKS-Wall St advances as earnings, economic data beat expectations

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street extended its rally in afternoon trading on Thursday as upbeat earnings and strong economic data put investors in a buying mood, with technology companies leading the charge.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

All three major U.S. stock indexes were up about 1%, bringing the bellwether S&P 500 to within 2% of an all-time high reached on April 30.

While the escalating U.S.-China tariff war continued to be a concern for market participants, upbeat quarterly results and data pointing to a strong U.S. economy helped ease trade-related jitters.

Walmart rose 1.9% after its first-quarter results beat analyst expectations.

Cisco Systems jumped 7.2% and shares were on track for their biggest percentage gain since February 2016 after better-than-expected quarterly results.

On the economic front, groundbreaking on new U.S. homes increased more than expected in April, according to the Commerce Department, as declining interest rates provided support to the struggling housing sector.

The S&P 1500 Homebuilding index was up 1.4%.

In a separate report from the Labor Department, the number of Americans applying for unemployment fell more than expected last week.

“Outside of the trade conflict, we’re seeing healthy earnings, good valuations and signs of economic growth re-accelerating,” said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York. “However, the trade conflict will be the key driver going forward.”

Washington placed Huawei Technologies Co on a blacklist which bans it from acquiring components and technology from U.S. firms without prior approval.

“This may be a precursor to a continued and larger trade conflict,” Carter added.

Shares of Huawei suppliers Qorvo Inc, Skyworks Solutions Inc, Qualcomm Inc, Xilinx Inc and Micron Technology Inc were all trading lower on the news.

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