NEW YORK — The surging Dow is on track for its biggest point gain since April as investors welcomed strong sales from retail giant Walmart and news that the U.S. and China are preparing to resume stalled trade talks.
In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up more than 400 points, or 1.7 percent.
Wall Street pros cited a possible thaw in the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies for lifting the mood of the market. The market has stalled recently due to fears that the tit-for-tat tariff skirmish between China and the U.S. would harm the global economy. Worries about Turkey’s financial crisis spreading to other countries has also hurt stocks.
“It shows that the market is being held back by trade concerns and if those were to be alleviated, the strong economic data and strong corporate profits could lift the U.S. stock market to all-time highs,” Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Also boosting sentiment was a fresh signal from Walmart that U.S. shoppers are confident and in a spending mood. The company’s online sales soared in its latest quarter.
The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was up 1 percent to 2848, putting it within 1 percent of its January 26 record close of 2872.87.
Thursday’s big gains come as the bull market for the broad U.S. stock index looks set on Wednesday to eclipse the 1990s bull as the longest in Wall Street history.
Stocks slumped Friday and Monday as investors worried about Turkey’s currency crisis, then rebounded Tuesday only to fall again Wednesday on rising concerns about China’s economic growth.
The U.S. market, boosted by another strong quarterly earnings season, continues to fare better than stock markets around the globe. Second-quarter profit growth for S&P 500 companies is at 24.6 percent, with nearly eight out of ten of the 463 companies that have reported results topping forecasts, according to earnings-tracker Thomson Reuters.
TRADE HOPES: China will send a trade envoy to Washington in late August in a new attempt to end the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. The countries are in conflict over technology policy and China’s trade surplus with the U.S.
The two sides haven’t held talks since early June. After those talks, both countries slapped tariffs on $34 billion in each other’s imports. And import levies are set to rise again next week, as both countries have threatened even larger increases.
WOW FOR WALMART: Walmart posted some of its strongest sales growth in a decade and its online revenue grew 40 percent, a faster pace than it reported in the first quarter. The stock jumped nearly 10 percent to $98.83.
More: Number of Fidelity 401(k) millionaires hits record high
More: Best savings accounts 2018: Switching from checking accounts can boost your cash
More: Chipotle to retrain all workers on food safety after Ohio location caused sicknesses
SOFTWARE SURGE: Symantec jumped 7.1 percent to $19.88 after the activist investment firm Starboard Value disclosed a 5.8 percent stake in the company and said it plans to nominate five directors for spots on Symantec’s board of directors.
Symantec said it has been talking to Starboard for the past several weeks and is evaluating the candidates it nominated.
DEPARTMENT STORES DUMPED: J.C. Penney tumbled 24.7 percent to $1.82 after it took a bigger loss than analysts expected and reported weaker sales. The chain also cut its forecasts for the year again. Dillard’s dropped 14.9 percent to $70.63 after its report.
Department stores have made big gains this year, but they dropped Wednesday after Macy’s said its sales growth slowed during the second quarter.
Macy’s inched up 1.1 percent to $35.55 after a 16 percent plunge the day before. Nordstrom was unchanged at $41.84 and Kohl’s lost another 0.6 percent to $73.29.
Contributing: The Associated Press