Amazon and Netflix push Wall Street higher

(Reuters) - Inc AMZN.O and Netflix NFLX.O fueled a second straight session of gains on Wall Street on Monday, as the resumption of U.S.-China trade talks helped ease concerns that have pummeled the market in recent months.

The benchmark S&P 500's .SPX advance added to a 3.4 percent surge on Friday, when strong U.S. jobs data eased worries over the economy and remarks by the Federal Reserve head calmed investors nervous that interest rate hikes would crimp growth.

Fears of a global slowdown have led to a sharp pullback in the markets over the last few months and in analysts’ estimates for corporate growth. But after hitting a 20-month low on Christmas Eve, the S&P has gained over 9 percent.

China has the “good faith” to work with the United States to resolve trade frictions, China’s Foreign Ministry said, while U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he saw “a very good chance that we will get a reasonable settlement” as the two countries started their first face-to-face talks since a 90-day truce was agreed in December.

“The main thing is the administration’s implied progress on talks with China. That’s something that the market sees as very important,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors rose. The consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD was the biggest gainer, jumping 2.36 percent, led by a 3.44 percent rise in Amazon. That made Amazon Wall Street's most valuable company at $797 billion, eclipsing Microsoft Corp's MSFT.O market capitalization, which reached $784 billion following a 0.13 percent rise in its stock.

Video-streaming service Netflix, the second-largest contributor to the S&P 500’s increase on Monday, climbed 5.97 percent.

Those companies and other high-profile technology and consumer stocks have rebounded after falling sharply in the final quarter of 2018.

Much of Monday’s upbeat sentiment was an extension of Friday’s rally.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“The news on Friday was positive, and market participants are now acting more confident, and that is feeding on itself,” said Tom Martin, a portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta.

The S&P energy index .SPNY gained 1.29 percent as oil prices rose on support from OPEC production cuts. [O/R]

The Philadelphia Semiconductor index .SOX, which includes many companies dependent on China for revenue, jumped 1.95 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 0.42 percent to end at 23,531.35 points, while the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.70 percent to 2,549.69. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.26 percent to 6,823.47.

The Russell 2000 index .RUT of small companies rose 1.78 percent, bringing its gain over the past two sessions to 5.60 percent.

The utilities .SPLRCU index dipped 0.71 percent, dragged lower by PG&E Corp's PCG.N 22 percent slump. Reuters reported that the California utility is exploring filing for bankruptcy protection related to potential liabilities from wildfires.

With earnings season approaching, investors expect a slowdown in fourth-quarter profit growth, and they will scrutinize forecasts for signs of further weakness.

Analysts now estimate S&P 500 companies to increase their fourth-quarter earnings per share by 15 percent. That compares with expectations of 20 percent growth three months ago, according to Refinitiv IBES data. The estimate for 2019 profit growth has fallen to about 7 percent from 10 percent.

Dollar Tree Inc DLTR.O jumped 5.46 percent after activist investor Starboard Value LP called on the retailer to sell its underperforming Family Dollar business and proposed replacing a majority of its board.

Loxo Oncology Inc LOXO.O surged 66.33 percent after Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N said it would buy the cancer drug developer for about $8 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.69-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.05-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 28 new highs and 16 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.1 billion shares, compared to the 9.0 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler