Wall Street kicks off 2020 at record levels on China stimulus, trade hopes

US stocks extended their rally into the new year, with all three major indexes hitting record highs on Thursday.

This as fresh stimulus from Beijing to prop up its economy added to optimism fueled by easing trade tensions and an improving global outlook.

China's Central Bank said on Wednesday it would cut the amount of cash that all banks must hold as reserves, the eighth such cut since early 2018, injecting fresh stimulus into the economy, while also boosting global markets.

The benchmark S&P 500 has hit intraday record high in 11 of 14 sessions. It ended higher on Tuesday after President Donald Trump said an initial US-China trade pact would be signed on January 15. Trump also said he would later travel to Beijing to begin talks on the next phase.

"In general, there isn't a lot of negativity among investors," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments, New Vernon, New Jersey. US presidential elections will take centre stage as the year progresses but, for now, there is no major reason for investors to sell stocks, Meckler said.

Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 169.27 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 28,707.71, the S&P 500 was up 11.28 points, or 0.35 per cent, at 3,242.06. The Nasdaq Composite was up 61.70 points, or 0.69 per cent, at 9,034.31.

Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed 2019 with their biggest annual percentage gains since 2013, while the Dow notched its biggest yearly percentage gain since 2017.

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Latest data from the US Labour Department showed that the number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits edged lower last week, a positive signal for the US labour market amid recent signs that new claims may be trending slightly higher.

The tech sector was the biggest gainer among the 11 major S&P sectors, with Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp providing the biggest boost. Traditionally defensive groups such as utilities, real estate and consumer staples fell between 0.5 per cent and one per cent.

Among individual decliners, Hanesbrands Inc slipped 1.4 per cent after a report that Wells Fargo has downgraded the apparel maker's shares to "underweight".

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.08-to-one ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 43 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 94 new highs and eight new lows.  

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