Dow inches closer to record high amid China trade optimism

Stocks traded higher on Monday, approaching record levels, amid increasing optimism around U.S.-China trade relations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 100 points, or 0.4 percent, while the S&P 500 advanced 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq Composite hovered around the flatline.

Bank shares contributed to Monday’s gains, with JPMorgan Chase climbing 2.1 percent, Citigroup advancing 3.1 percent, and Bank of America gaining 2.6 percent. The gains in bank stocks come as the Treasury yield traded higher.

AT&T shares rose 4.3 percent after Elliott Management revealed a $3.2 billion stake in the telecom giant. In a letter to shareholders, Elliott said AT&T can “improve its business and realize a historic increase in value.”

China offered last week to increase purchases of U.S. agricultural products if the U.S. eased restrictions on telecom giant Huawei, Politico reported on Friday. China’s offer could also be contingent on the U.S. delaying higher tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, the report said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday morning that China and the U.S. have a “conceptual agreement” on enforcement mechanisms around intellectual property theft, one of the more contentious negotiation points between the two countries.

Both countries have been engaged in a trade war since 2018. In that time, China and the U.S. have exchanged tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods. The conflict has dampened expectations of global economic growth.

New data out of China showed that exports unexpectedly fell in August with a large contraction for shipments to the United States. The drop indicates further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and puts further pressure on Chinese lawmakers to announce new economic stimulus.

“While trade talks are certainly a positive in hopes to secure a trade deal and the effort put forth by both parties to meet should go a long way towards helping alleviate some of the poor sentiment of late, many of the technical reasons had been in place starting early last week,” Mark Newton, managing member at Newton Advisors, said in a note. He highlighted improving breadth in the market and outperformance from tech shares, among other factors.

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