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Wall Street boosted by strong bank earnings

A strong start to the US earnings season, along with trade optimism and hopes of a slower pace in the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes, have helped S&P 500 recoup some of its losses from a recent rout.

The index is now 10.7 per cent away from its September 20 record close after having fallen as much as 19.8 per cent below that level.

“Overall, banks need a good economy and a properly sloped yield curve, and maybe we’re getting that,” said Kevin Caron, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in New Jersey.

“We’re starting to see that percolate into bank earnings.”

With Wednesday’s gains, the S&P 500 came within striking distance of its 50-day moving average, a key indicator of short-term trends, for the first time since December 4. The Nasdaq crossed its 50-day moving average on Tuesday for the first time since December 3.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 141.57 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 24,207.16, the S&P 500 gained 5.8 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 2,616.1 and the Nasdaq Composite added 10.86 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 7,034.69.

Stocks slightly pared gains in the last half-hour of trading after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors were investigating Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US businesses.

Among other stocks, United Continental Holdings shares rose 6.4 per cent after the airline posted a quarterly profit that beat expectations.

Shares of First Data Corp soared 21.1 per cent after Fiserv said it had agreed to buy the payment processor for $US22 billion in the biggest-ever deal within the digital payments industry. Fiserv’s shares fell 3.3 per cent.

Volume on US exchanges was 7.48 billion shares, compared to the 8.69 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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