Stocks march higher on growing hopes for China trade talks

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U.S. stocks jumped Thursday as China and the United States said they will hold their first trade discussions in months, a potential sign of progress toward ending their trade war.

China will send a trade envoy to Washington, D.C., later this month in a new attempt to end the trade dispute before it causes major damage to the global economy. The two sides haven't talked since early June. Energy and metals prices and shares of industrial companies turned higher.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 22.32 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,840.69. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 396.32 points, or 1.6 percent, to 25,558.73, as Walmart and Boeing made big gains. The Nasdaq composite rose 32.41 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,806.52.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 15.09 points, or 0.9 percent to 1,685.75.

Walmart soared after reporting its strongest growth in sales in more than a decade. Other companies that make and sell basic necessities also rose.

Jason Draho, the head of asset allocation for UBS, said investors are eager for the two countries to start making progress and resolve their differences. He added that China may be changing course because its economy has slowed.

"The data we've seen from China recently has showed slowing growth," he said. "It's possible they decided 'OK, we need to take a different approach' and come to the table offering a little more."

China and the U.S. have been in conflict for months over issues including Beijing's technology policy and its trade surplus with the U.S. After the latest round of talks failed to produce much progress, both countries put taxes on $34 billion in each other's imports.

Those tariffs are set to rise next week, and both countries have threatened even larger increases as early as September.

Walmart posted its biggest gain in more than a decade in sales at stores open at least a year, and its online revenue grew 40 percent, a faster pace than it reported in the first quarter. The stock jumped 9.3 percent to $98.64, which wiped out its losses from earlier this year.

Other retailers and consumer goods companies also edged higher. Target added 1.7 percent to $82.07 and Procter & Gamble rose 1.7 percent to $83.69 while McDonald's climbed 1.2 percent to $161.73.

Banks rallied as interest rates increased. Bond prices turned lower again. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.87 percent from 2.85 percent.

Oil prices were steady after a sharp drop a day earlier. U.S. crude inched up 0.7 percent to settle at $65.46 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, picked up 0.9 percent to $71.43 per barrel.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline slipped 0.5 percent to $1.99 a gallon, heating oil rose 0.3 percent to $2.10 a gallon, and natural gas fell 1.1 percent to $2.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Metals prices also turned higher. Gold dipped 0.1 percent to $1,184 an ounce. Silver rose 1.8 percent to $14.71 an ounce. Copper added 2.2 percent to $2.62 a pound. That made up for much of Wednesday's loss, but copper prices are still down 20 percent since early June.

Stocks have swung wildly over the last week. Thursday marked the Dow's largest gain since April. The day before that, stocks took their biggest loss in six weeks.

Global markets slumped Friday and Monday as investors worried about Turkey's currency crisis, then rebounded Tuesday only to fall again Wednesday on rising concerns about China's economic growth.

J.C. Penney tumbled 27 percent to $1.76 after it took a bigger loss than analysts expected and reported weaker sales. The chain also cut its forecasts for the year again. Dillard's dropped 8.7 percent to $75.80 after its report.

Other than Penney, most department store stocks have jumped this year. They dropped Wednesday after Macy's said its sales growth slowed during the second quarter.

Macy's inched up 1.9 percent to $35.81 after a 16 percent plunge the day before. Nordstrom and Kohl's also managed small gains.

Symantec rose 4.6 percent to $19.41 after the activist investment firm Starboard Value disclosed an investment in the company and said it plans to nominate five directors for spots on Symantec's board of directors.

Symantec said it has been talking to Starboard for the past several weeks and is evaluating the candidates it nominated.

Chipotle lost 4.4 percent to $502.70 after Ohio heath officials said tests from a Chipotle location came back positive for an illness that occurs when food is left at unsafe temperatures.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries jumped 7.3 percent to $24.11 after U.S. health officials approved its generic version of EpiPen, the emergency allergy medication made by Mylan. The injections are stocked by schools and parents to treat allergic reactions to food and bug bites.

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