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US: Wall St trims gains as US, China struggle over gaps in trade issues

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[NEW YORK] US stocks were higher in afternoon trading on Friday but pared gains after US officials said the United States and China still have issues to resolve in their ongoing trade talks.

People briefed on the talks said more time is likely needed in the talks given China's resistance this week to US demands for specific steps by Beijing to end forced transfers of US technology and certain other policies.

Signs of progress in the ongoing trade talks between the two countries supported the market for much of the session, leaving the Dow and Nasdaq on course to post a ninth straight week of gains.

Top trade negotiators from the two countries met to wrap up a week of talks on some of the thorniest issues in their trade war. If the two sides fail to reach a deal by midnight on March 1, then their seven-month trade war could escalate.

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Hopes of a trade deal as well as dovish signals from the Federal Reserve largely have driven recent gains in stocks, with the S&P 500 now up nearly 19 per cent from its late-December low.

"Right now the downside risk has been not as steep but there's always a concern that something happens last minute," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

"Having a Chinese economy that stabilizes is constructive for global markets. That's what is key in terms of the market looking at the results."

The S&P 500 technology index was up 0.9 per cent, leading gains among the 11 major S&P sectors, but off its highs of the session. The trade-exposed industrials index climbed 0.2 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 94.04 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 25,944.67, the S&P 500 gained 8.93 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 2,783.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 38.17 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 7,497.88.

Kraft Heinz Co tumbled 28 per cent, and was the biggest drag on the S&P along with a 1.8 per cent fall in Class B shares of the company's controlling stakeholder, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The packaged food company posted a quarterly loss, disclosed an SEC probe and wrote down the value of its iconic Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.72-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.88-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 59 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 107 new highs and 21 new lows.

REUTERS