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U.S. Stocks Give Back Ground But Remain Modestly Higher

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Stocks have pulled back off their best levels of the day but remain modestly higher in afternoon trading on Wednesday. Earlier in the session, the major averages all reached new record intraday highs.

Currently, the Dow is up 118.71 points or 0.4 percent at 29,058.38, the Nasdaq is up 21.10 points or 0.2 percent at 9,272.42 and the S&P 500 is up 6.77 points or 0.2 percent at 3,289.92.

The early strength on Wall Street came as traders awaited the signing of the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China.

However, stocks gave back some ground after President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's chief trade negotiator, officially signed the agreement in a ceremony at the White House.

In lengthy and sometimes rambling remarks ahead of the signing, Trump said the U.S. and China are "righting the wrongs of the past and delivering a future of economic justice and security for American workers, farmers and families."

"It doesn't get any bigger than this," added Trump, who launched his trade war back in March of 2018 to address what he has described as the U.S. being taken advantage of by China.

Trump said the deal calls for China to purchase $200 billion worth of U.S. goods over the next two years, including up to $50 billion worth of agricultural products.

The deal also purportedly addresses issues such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and currency manipulation by China.

In exchange, the U.S. will scrap a new round of tariffs and cut tariffs on approximately $120 billion worth of Chinese goods in half to 7.5 percent.

Trump noted a 25 percent tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports will remain in place in order to give the U.S. leverage as the two countries enter into phase two negotiations.

Sector News

Utilities stocks are turning in some of the market's best performances on the day, with the Dow Jones Utilities Average climbing by 1.6 percent to a new record intraday high.

Significant strength has also emerged among gold stocks, as reflected by the 1.5 percent gain being posted by the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index.

The strength among gold stocks comes amid an increase by the price of the precious metal, as gold for February delivery is climbing $9.80 to $1,554.40 an ounce.

Housing, tobacco, and pharmaceutical stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, while weakness is visible among banking, steel and oil service stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index slid by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell by 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are extending the upward move seen in the previous session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 2.5 basis points at 1.793 percent.

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