US stocks head toward records; tech leads the way

NEW YORK (AP) — A rally in big technology companies including Apple sent major U.S. stock indexes to more record highs on Wall Street Thursday. Investors were relieved that the United States and Iran appear to be stepping away from the edge of war. The U.S. and China also sign their “Phase 1” trade deal next week. The S&P 500 rose 21 points, or 0.7%, to 3,274. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 212 points, or 0.7%, to 28,957. The Nasdaq added 74 points, or 0.8%, to 9,203. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.85%. Gold prices fell.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Stocks around the world climbed on Thursday, and the S&P 500 was heading for a record as markets continued their rally on relief that the United States and Iran appear to be stepping away from the edge of war.

Money flowed into riskier investments, such as technology stocks, and trickled out of traditional hiding spots for investors when they’re nervous, such as gold.

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Stocks have been rallying since Wednesday, after investors took comments from President Donald Trump and Iranian officials to mean no military escalation is imminent in their tense conflict. It was a sharp turnaround from earlier days, when markets tumbled on the threat of war after the United States killed a top Iranian general in a drone strike.

Diminishing worries about a U.S.-Iran war put more of the market’s focus on the economy, corporate profits and other inputs that directly affect stock prices.

Worries about a recession have faded since last year, as central banks pumped stimulus into the global economy and the United States and China moved toward an interim deal in their trade war. China confirmed on Thursday that its chief envoy in tariff talks with Washington will visit next week to sign their “Phase 1” trade deal.

The spotlight will next move to Friday’s labor report, and economists expect it to show employers added 160,000 jobs last month. The numbers are key because a strong job market has been propping up the economy and allowing U.S. households to continue to spend, even as manufacturing weakens due to tariffs and trade wars.

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A report on Thursday said layoffs were lighter last week than economists expected, a second straight encouraging signal on the job market. On Wednesday, a report suggested hiring in the private sector last month was stronger than economists expected.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.5% at 3,271 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. If it stays that high, it will surpass its record of 3,257.85 set last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 191 points, or 0.7%, to 28,937 and was approaching the 29,000 level for the first time. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.6%.

TECH WINS: Technology stocks in the S&P 500 accounted for more than a third of the index’s entire gain, with Apple’s 1.8% rise adding considerable momentum. Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices rose 2.2% for one of the largest gains in the S&P 500.

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YIELDS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.85% from 1.87% late Wednesday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Asia jumped on the heels of Wednesday’s rally, which really took hold after trading had closed in the region.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 leaped 2.3%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.7% and South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.6%.

European markets also gained, but more modestly. Germany’s DAX returned 1.3%, and France’s CAC 40 added 0.2%. The FTSE 00 in London rose 0.3%.

COMMODITIES: Gold fell a second straight day following 10 straight days of gains. Gold slipped $5.70 to settle at $1,551.70 per ounce.

The price of oil also dipped. Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 5 cents to settle at $59.56 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 7 cents to end at $65.37 a barrel.

MESSY ROOM: Bed Bath & Beyond plunged 18.9% in heavy trading after withdrawing its annual profit guidance. The housewares retailer made the decision following a disappointing third quarter where both earnings and revenue missed Wall Street forecasts.

RETAIL ROUT: Kohl’s fell 6.9% and J.C. Penney shed 11.2% after reporting sales declines during the holiday season. The weak results underscore the continued challenges ahead from online rivals.