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US: Stocks in split finish as China trade talks drag on

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks had a split finish on Thursday as investors looked for a possible outcome of grinding US-China trade negotiations, which failed to materialise.

Markets also reacted to news of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' divorce, the biggest in history, with ex-wife MacKenzie keeping 25 per cent of the couple's shares in the tech giant, valued at about US$36 billion.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 per cent to 26,384.63, its highest level since October 9.

Meanwhile, the broader S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent, rising to 2,879.39 but the tech-heavy Nasdaq was essentially flat, falling less than 0.1 per cent to 7,891.78.

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In Washington, White House officials on Thursday stoked anticipation that President Donald Trump could announce the date for a summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to finalise a trade agreement, thus ending their nine-month trade war.

After the close, Mr Trump met with Chinese trade envoy Liu He and announced the fate of any deal would likely be known in four weeks.

Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services told AFP stocks had fluctuated with hopes over the trade talks.

"Fundamentally, this is what drove the markets," he said.

Shares in retail and cloud computing giant Amazon ended the day 0.1 per cent lower following news of the founder's divorce, in which ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos also surrendered voting control of her four per cent stake in the company, along with any interest in The Washington Post or Jeff Bezos's aerospace firm Blue Origin.

Boeing meanwhile said it stood by the "fundamental safety" of its 737 Max aircraft but acknowledged that Ethiopian investigators had found a key apart of its navigation system had acted erroneously during last month's fatal crash.

The shares in the company, which had fallen precipitously following the March 10 crash in Ethiopia, rose 2.9 per cent.

AFP