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Wall Street sets records again as Mnuchin says trade deal to be signed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street’s major indexes resumed their rally with fresh records on Thursday as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said an initial U.S.-China trade deal would be signed in early January.

The benchmark S&P 500 hit a sixth straight record high, its longest streak since January 2018. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq also touched new highs.

Mnuchin’s comments bolstered the optimism that has carried U.S. stocks higher since a trade agreement was announced last week. In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Mnuchin said the agreement had already been put down on paper and translated, and it would not be subject to renegotiation.

The comments relieved some concerns that disagreements between Washington and Beijing could once again keep the trade deal from being finalised, said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management in Milwaukee.

“The political risk is seeping out of the market,” he said.

Further boosting optimism around the strength of the U.S. economy and labour 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 shrugged off U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment, as the Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected not to remove him from office.

(GRAPHIC: S&P 500 record highs - )

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 131.66 points, or 0.47%, to 28,370.94, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 13.92 points, or 0.44%, to 3,205.06 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 53.17 points, or 0.6%, to 8,880.91.

Conagra Brands Inc CAG.N shares jumped 17.2% after the Slim Jim maker beat quarterly sales and profit estimates.

Conagra's results also lifted other packaged food makers and helped the S&P 500 consumer staples index .SPLRCS advance 0.7%.

Micron Technology Inc MU.O shares gained 3.3% after the chipmaker signalled a recovery in its business in 2020 and said it had received licenses to supply some products to Huawei.

Cisco Systems Inc CSCO.O shares rose 2.7% after Barclays upgraded its rating on the networking equipment company's stock.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.64-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.49-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 38 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 118 new highs and 33 new lows.

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Uday Sampath and Abhishek Manikandan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Chizu Nomiyama