December 19, 2019 / 6:24 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall St hits new highs as Mnuchin says trade pact to be signed in January

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* Weekly jobless claims fall from over two-year high

* Conagra eyes best day in over 30 years

* Micron up 4% after signaling 2020 recovery

* Cisco biggest to tech sector

* Indexes up: Dow 0.3%, S&P 0.3%, Nasdaq 0.5% (Updates to early afternoon)

By Uday Sampath Kumar

Dec 19 (Reuters) - Wall Street hit all-time highs again on Thursday as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said an initial U.S.-China trade deal would be signed in early January, adding to optimism that was fueled by a breakthrough in trade talks last week.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Mnuchin said the agreement had already been put down on paper, and that it was completely finished and just undergoing a technical “scrub.”

The S&P 500 hit a sixth straight intraday record high, its longest streak since January 2018, riding a wave that began last week with hopes of a trade truce between the world’s top two economies and expectations for a smoother Brexit.

The Dow Industrials and the Nasdaq also hit record highs.

U.S. stocks will continue to have an upward bias until the start of 2020, when investors will look for more specific details in the trade agreement, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

“Investors are essentially waiting to see what happens next, moving from a ‘tell-me-something-good’ environment to ‘show-me-something-good’,” Arone said.

Further boosting optimism around the strength of the U.S. economy and labor market, data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropping from more than a two-year high last week.

The market also shrugged off U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment, as the Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected to not convict and remove him from office.

At 12:57 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 92.31 points, or 0.33%, at 28,331.59, the S&P 500 was up 10.00 points, or 0.31%, at 3,201.14 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 40.65 points, or 0.46%, at 8,868.39.

Conagra Brands jumped 16.3%, on track for its best day ever, after the Slim Jim maker beat quarterly sales and profit estimates.

Conagra’s results also lifted other packaged food makers and helped boost the consumer staples sector 0.6%.

Micron Technology Inc gained 3.9% after signaling a recovery in its business in 2020 and saying it had received licenses to supply some products to Huawei.

The technology sector was the biggest boost among the 11 major S&P 500 sectors, helped in large part by a 2.7% rise in Cisco’s shares after Barclays upgraded the stock.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by 1.31-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 32 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 101 new highs and 31 new lows.

Reporting by Uday Sampath and Abhishek Manikandan in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Maju Samuel and Shinjini Ganguli

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