Stocks marched sharply higher on Wall Street Tuesday afternoon as traders cheered news that the leaders of the U.S. and China will meet face-to-face next week to discuss their long-running trade dispute.
The rally placed the market on track for its second straight gain, extending the strong rebound for stocks in June after a steep sell-off last month. The benchmark S&P 500 is now less than 1% below its all-time high set on April 30.
President Donald Trump said he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at an international summit in Japan. Investors are hoping for any positive sign in the trade war between the world's largest economies. U.S. businesses have implored Trump to stop escalating the trade war and refrain from expanding his tariffs to $300 billion on goods from China.
Markets also got a boost after the head of the European Central Bank said it was ready to cut interest rates and provide additional economic stimulus if necessary. The remarks sent European stock indexes sharply higher and put the spotlight on the Federal Reserve, which is set to announce its own decision on interest rates Wednesday.
Two weeks ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell set off a market rally after he signaled that the central bank is willing to cut interest rates to help stabilize the economy if the trade war between Washington and Beijing starts to crimp growth. Any continued escalations could put the brakes on what is poised to be the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.
Technology sector stocks powered much of the rally and notched the biggest gains. Apple gained 2.4% and chipmakers Intel and Nvidia rose 2.9% and 5.9%, respectively. Google's parent company, Alphabet added 1.6%, leading communications and internet stocks higher. Banks rose. JPMorgan Chase picked up 1.7% and Bank of America rose 2.9%.
Industrial and consumer-related stocks also made big gains. General Electric climbed 3.2%, Caterpillar rose 2.7%, and Nike added 2.7%. Utilities and consumer products companies lagged the market in a sign that investors were stepping back from the safe-play sectors and taking on more risk.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was up 1% as of 3:37 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 375 points, or 1.4%, to 26,487. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, rose 1.5%.
The Dow is 1.4% below its record high set October 3. The Nasdaq is about 2.5% below its record close set on May 3.
Major indexes in Europe closed sharply higher.
ANALYST'S TAKE: A prospective meeting between the U.S. and China's leaders is welcome news for a market that has been searching for some direction. "If you think back a week ago, there was a fear they wouldn't even talk at all," said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.
FED WATCH: Investors are keeping a close watch on the Federal Reserve this week as they bet the central bank is headed for its first interest rate cut in over a decade.
Chairman Jerome Powell has previously signaled that the central bank will consider a rate cut if economic growth is threatened by the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. It is meeting Tuesday and will release a statement Wednesday.
Most analysts say they think economic growth has slowed sharply in the April-June quarter to around a 1.5% percent annual rate, only half the pace of the past year.
Investors collectively envision a Fed rate cut by July and possibly further cuts after that. Some are even betting on a rate cut this week. Many economists, though, think the Fed will wait until September at the earliest to announce its first drop in its benchmark short-term interest rate since 2008 and might not cut again in 2019. A few Fed watchers foresee no rate cut at all this year.
FUELED BY A FORECAST: SM Energy climbed 6.9% after the oil and natural gas company raised production forecasts for the second quarter and full year.
BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose sharply, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.06%, below the 2.08% it traded at late Monday. That's still well below the 2.20% yield on the three-month Treasury bill.
COMMODITIES AND CURRENCIES: Benchmark crude oil rose 3.8% to settle at $53.90 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 2% to close at $62.14 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.8% to $1.72 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 1.6% to $1.83 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2.4% to $2.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold edged down 0.6% to $1,350.70 per ounce, silver rose 1.1% to $14.99 per ounce and copper rose 2.1% to $2.70 per pound.
The dollar fell to 108.44 Japanese yen from 108.57 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1196 from $1.1216.