October 9, 2019 / 3:51 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall St gets tech boost as reports bolster hopes of trade deal

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* Beijing open to agreeing to partial trade deal - BBG

* China offering extra U.S. agriculture purchases - FT

* Apple, Microsoft biggest boost to S&P 500

* J&J drops after jury says company must pay $8 bln in damages

* Indexes up: Dow 0.49%, S&P 500 0.66%, Nasdaq 0.80% (Adds comment, updates prices)

By Arjun Panchadar

Oct 9 (Reuters) - Wall Street rose on Wednesday on the back of gains in technology stocks, as investor sentiment was boosted by reports indicating an ease in trade tensions between the United States and China ahead of pivotal talks on Thursday.

China was still open to agreeing to a partial trade deal with the United States, despite the inclusion of top Chinese artificial intelligence startups in a trade blacklist, according to a Bloomberg report.

Separately, the Financial Times said Beijing was offering to increase its annual purchases of U.S. agricultural products.

Shares in Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc rose about 1% and were among the biggest boosts to the S&P 500 . The technology sector rose 1.08%.

Chipmakers with a sizable exposure to China also gained, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index up 1.45%.

“The reality of what we can actually expect from these talks is for both sides to come to a truce. If they just called a time-out, a detente, then the markets would celebrate that,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

Trade tensions, intensifying efforts to impeach President Donald Trump and signs of slowing economic growth rocked equity markets in October, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones indexes off more than 2% since the end of September.

Rising geopolitical risks have also not offered investors any respite. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said a military operation targeting Kurdish fighters in northeast Syrian had begun.

A sharp contraction in U.S. manufacturing data, as well as a dismal reading on business activity last week has raised bets of a third interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve this year.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell flagged openness to further rate cuts on Tuesday, repeating that the central bank would act “as appropriate” amid an economy that he said was likely to continue to expand.

At 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the central bank is due to release minutes from its September meeting.

The session’s gains were broad-based, with all the major S&P 500 sectors trading higher and 27 of the 30 components of the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average index in positive territory.

Johnson & Johnson’s shares fell 2.2% after a jury awarded $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who accused it of failing to warn that young men using its antipsychotic drug Risperdal could grow breasts.

Energy stocks also gained 1.3%, tracking an increase in oil prices.

Investors will now turn their eye to the third-quarter earnings season, which begins next week with U.S. banks reporting, to gauge the health of the domestic economy.

Analysts expect the worst quarterly profit performance since 2016, with earnings for S&P 500 companies estimated to fall 3.1% from a year earlier, based on IBES data from Refinitiv.

At 11:25 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 126.91 points, or 0.49%, at 26,290.95, the S&P 500 was up 18.97 points, or 0.66%, at 2,912.03 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 62.32 points, or 0.80%, at 7,886.10.

Shares in Netflix Inc fell 1.21%, after two brokerages cut price targets on the video streaming service provider’s shares.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.21-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.71-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded seven new 52-week highs and nine new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded four new highs and 76 new lows. (Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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