Wall Street climbs on hopes of easing trade tensions

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday on optimism the United States and China could resolve their trade dispute, after a news report said Washington would pause further tariffs on Chinese imports.

Wall Street’s major indexes reversed an early drop after the Financial Times reported that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a group of industry executives the next tranche of tariffs on Chinese imports was on hold.

Wall Street momentarily pared gains after a spokesperson for Lighthizer denied the report, saying plans for the tariffs had not changed. But stocks resumed their upswing and rose further in the last half-hour of trading.

“We’re getting conflicting messages, but the market is absolutely primed for any piece of good news it can get a-hold of,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director of institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. “The market has been beaten down, and it’s weary. If it catches a ray of sunshine, it gets excited again.”

The benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX gained 28.62 points, or 1.06 percent, to 2,730.2, snapping five days of losses. Shares of Apple Inc AAPL.O advanced 2.5 percent to end a five-day losing streak and help the technology sector .SPLRCT climb 2.5 percent, the biggest gain among the S&P 500's major sectors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 208.77 points, or 0.83 percent, to 25,289.27 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 122.64 points, or 1.72 percent, to 7,259.03.

Shares of Cisco Systems Inc CSCO.O advanced 5.5 percent after the network equipment maker's quarterly revenue and earnings beat analyst estimates. Cisco was among the biggest boosts to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.

Department store operator Dillard's Inc DDS.N tumbled 14.8 percent after third-quarter earnings missed analyst estimates. Retailer J.C. Penney Co Inc JCP.N also reported same-store sales below analyst expectations. But J.C. Penney shares shed initial losses to climb 11.5 percent after Chief Executive Officer Jill Soltau indicated plans to turn a profit.

The gloomy Dillard's and J.C. Penney results hurt Walmart Inc WMT.N shares, which fell 2.0 percent even though the world's largest retailer beat same-store sales estimates and raised its full-year outlook.

KB Home KBH.N slumped 15.3 percent after the company cut its fourth-quarter revenue forecast. Shares of other homebuilders, including D.R. Horton Inc DHI.N, Toll Brothers Inc TOL.N and Lennar Corp LEN.N, also fell.

Shares of PG&E Corp PCG.N extended their losing streak to a sixth day, hitting a 15-year low of $17.26 and ending down 30.7 percent. The utility company warned it could face liability in excess of its insurance if its equipment caused the deadly Camp Fire in northern California.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.35-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.05-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted six new 52-week highs and 19 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 154 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.67 billion shares, up from the 8.58 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Susan Thomas and David Gregorio