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Optimism About Trade Talks Leads To Strength On Wall Street - U.S. Commentary

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Following the substantial rally seen last Friday, stocks saw some further upside over the course of the trading session on Monday. With the upward move, the major averages continued to offset the sell-off seen last month.

The major averages pulled back off their best levels in afternoon trading but remained firmly positive. The Dow rose 98.19 points or 0.4 percent to 23,531.35, the Nasdaq surged up 84.61 points or 1.3 percent to 6,823.57 and the S&P 500 climbed 17.75 points or 1.7 percent to 2,549.69.

The continued strength on Wall Street partly reflected optimism about high-level trade talks between the U.S. and China in Beijing.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish is leading the U.S. team at the two-day meeting that began today, with a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry predicting "positive and constructive discussions."

Meanwhile, traders largely shrugged off a report from the Institute for Supply Management showing growth in U.S. service sector activity slowed by more than anticipated in the month of December.

The ISM said its non-manufacturing index dropped to 57.6 in December after inching up to 60.7 in November. While a reading above 50 still indicates service sector growth, economists had expected the index to dip to 59.0.

"The non-manufacturing sector's growth rate cooled off in December," said Anthony Nieves, Chair of the ISM Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "Respondents indicate that there still is concern about tariffs, despite the hold on increases by the U.S. and China."

Last Thursday, the ISM released a separate report showing a notable slowdown in the pace of growth in U.S. manufacturing activity in December

The purchasing managers index tumbled to 54.1 in December after rising to 59.3 in November, hitting its lowest level since November of 2016. Economists had expected the index to slip to 57.9.

Sector News

Oil service stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the session, resulting in a 4.4 percent spike by the Philadelphia Oil Service Index.

The rally by oil service stocks comes amid an increase by the price of crude oil, with crude for February delivery climbing $0.56 to $48.52 a barrel.

Considerable strength was also visible among biotechnology stocks, as reflected by the 3.4 percent jump by the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index.

Loxo Oncology (LOXO) led the sector higher after the biopharmaceutical company agreed to be acquired by drug giant Eli Lilly (LLY) for $235 per share in cash or approximately $8 billion.

Retail stocks also turned in a particularly strong performance on the day, driving the Dow Jones Retail Index up by 2.7 percent.

Natural gas, semiconductor, networking and computer hardware stocks also saw significant strength, while gold and utilities stocks bucked the uptrend.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Monday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index skyrocketed by 2.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, European stocks climbed off their worst levels but still closed lower on the day. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both fell by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries turned lower over the course of the session after seeing initial strength. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 2.3 basis points at 2.682 percent.

Looking Ahead

Any news regarding the U.S.-China trade talks is likely to be in focus on Tuesday amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front.

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