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U.S. Stocks Climb as Investors Look to Earnings

By Caitlin Ostroff and Karen Langley 

U.S. stocks rose Thursday, hitting new intraday highs, as investors shifted focus to corporate earnings for cues on the health of the economy after an initial U.S.-China trade deal was sealed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 157 points, or 0.5%, a day after finishing above 29000 for the first time. The S&P 500 climbed 0.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.5%.

The first week of the U.S. corporate earnings season continued with results from Morgan Stanley, which reported stronger-than-expected profits and revenue. Shares of the investment bank rose 7%.

The robust results reported by some of America's biggest banks are a positive sign for the markets, said Tom Stringfellow, president and chief investment officer at Frost Investment Advisors.

"It can be a barometer of economic stabilization," he said.

Investors also parsed new data, including figures showing U.S. retail sales rose at a steady pace in December to close the holiday shopping season. Consumer spending is a key driver of U.S. economic growth.

Other data Thursday showed the number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, remaining at historically low levels.

Following the signing of the phase-one trade deal, investors will be looking for a recovery in corporate earnings in future quarters, said Christopher Iggo, chief investment officer for core investments at AXA Investment Management.

"We're trading at quite rich valuations," Mr. Iggo said. "You need those earnings to come through to justify the current valuations."

Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report a 2.3% decline in earnings in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according to FactSet estimates. But analysts are expecting earnings growth to pick up in the first quarter of 2020.

In other earnings news, shares of paint maker PPG Industries fell 3.2% after it warned of uncertain conditions for 2020 and missed profit expectations. Shares of Alcoa dropped 11% after the aluminum maker reported a steeper-than-expected loss.

Overall, the gains among stocks were broad-based, with all 11 sectors of the S&P 500 rising, led by technology shares.

The signing of the China trade deal Wednesday brought a cease-fire to a two-year trade war that captivated markets and dented global growth, though it leaves in place U.S. tariffs on about three-quarters of Chinese imports to the U.S. Potential reductions in tariffs were left for later negotiations.

The deal is likely to boost growth in 2020 and spur an increase in business investment, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

Overseas, China's Shanghai Composite Index ended the day down 0.5%. The Stoxx Europe 600 ticked up 0.2%.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was 1.811%, up from 1.788% Wednesday.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com and Karen Langley at karen.langley@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 16, 2020 11:43 ET (16:43 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.