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US: Stocks bounce back as trade rhetoric cools

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[NEW YORK] US stocks on Tuesday reclaimed some of the ground lost in the prior day's steep sell-off, with tariff-sensitive technology stocks leading the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq higher as investors were heartened by a tonal shift in US-China trade rhetoric.

All three major US indexes closed in the black, although they pared gains late in the day and clawed back less than half of Monday's losses, which were the largest one-day percentage drops in months. The bellwether S&P 500 remains nearly 4 per cent below its all-time high reached two weeks ago.

Investors' nerves were calmed after US President Donald Trump referred to the escalating trade war with China as "a little squabble", and added: "We have a good dialogue going."

Beijing echoed that sentiment. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters: "My understanding is that China and the United States have agreed to continue pursuing relevant discussions."

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Market voices on:

"(Today) was a good buying opportunity in terms of how low prices got yesterday," said Jim Bell, chief investment officer at Bell Investment Advisors in Oakland, California. "And now Trump is trying to smooth the waters.

"I assume a lot of people still take the president seriously when he makes these comments," Mr Bell added. "There's still strong support for his policies and people want to believe what he's saying, that it's going to end well."

Boeing provided the biggest boost to the Dow, rising 1.7 per cent as tariff-vulnerable industrials buoyed the blue chip index.

Ralph Lauren fell 3.7 per cent after the apparel company posted quarterly results that included disappointing North American sales.

Uber Technologies and ride-hailing rival Lyft reversed course after their post-debut slides. Their stocks advanced 7.7 per cent and 4.9 per cent, respectively.

Uber's shares rose another 6.4 per cent in after-the bell trading after a US labor agency said it had concluded that the company's drivers were independent contractors, not employees.

Walt Disney announced it would take control of Comcast's Hulu in a move to challenge Netflix and others in the global video streaming war.

Disney stock climbed 1.4 per cent, while Comcast gained 1.5 per cent. Netflix edged up 0.1 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 207.06 points, or 0.82 per cent, to 25,532.05, the S&P 500 gained 22.54 points, or 0.80 per cent, to 2,834.41, and the Nasdaq Composite added 87.47 points, or 1.14 per cent, to 7,734.49.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, all but utilities closed in the black. Technology stocks posted the largest percentage gains, climbing 1.6 per cent.

Chipmakers enjoyed a reprieve, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index rising 2.4 per cent after suffering its worst one-day percentage loss since Jan 3.

The first-quarter earnings season is winding down, with 453 of the S&P 500 companies having reported. Of those, 75.3 per cent beat analyst expectations, slightly below the 76 per cent beat rate for the last four quarters.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a 3.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.67-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 51 new highs and 86 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 6.62 billion shares, compared to the 7.01 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

REUTERS