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US: Stocks end at records on international trade deal progress

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Wall Street stocks surged to fresh records on Thursday after the US Senate approved a new North American trade pact, adding to the momentum from the US-China trade deal.

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks surged to fresh records on Thursday after the US Senate approved a new North American trade pact, adding to the momentum from the US-China trade deal.

All three major indices finished at all-time highs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.9 percent at 29,297.64.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.8 per cent to close at 3,316.81, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1.1 per cent to 9,357.13.

One of the notable winners was Google parent Alphabet, which rose 0.9 per cent to top US$1 trillion in market capitalisation, joining Apple and Microsoft in the elite group and ahead of Amazon, which is currently valued at around US$930 billion after earlier exceeding US$1 trillion.

Investors welcomed the Senate's overwhelming approval of the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a rewrite of the Nafta agreement that now requires only President Donald Trump's signature and approval from Canada before it enters into force.

The Senate action came a day after Mr Trump signed a trade accord with Chinese officials, removing the immediate risk of further escalation of a conflict between economic superpowers that has rattled investors for more than a year.

"A lot of the uncertainties that we were facing last year have been cleared," said Maris Ogg of Tower Bridge Advisors, who said there has been a "collective sigh of relief" as markets have seen recession fears recede.

Ms Ogg said lofty stock valuations were "a little worrisome" but added that "bull markets don't usually end because of valuations unless it gets very extreme."

The gains came as the National Retail Federation estimated that 2019 holiday sales rose 4.1 per cent to US$730.2 billion from the year-ago period, a solid performance that met expectations.

Among individual companies, Morgan Stanley gained 6.5 per cent as fourth-quarter earnings easily topped expectations, making it the latest large financial group to report good results.

Alcoa plunged 11.8 per cent after reporting a loss of US$303 million in the fourth quarter, due in part to one-time costs connected to the closure of an alumina refinery in Texas.

AFP