NEW YORK - The benchmark S&P 500 stock index edged higher to reach near six-month highs on Thursday, with losses in technology stocks countered by gains in Boeing Co and Facebook Inc as investors waited for more clarity on the U.S.-China trade talks.
Negotiations continued in Washington after meetings last week in Beijing, as the two countries worked toward resolving their long-standing trade dispute, which has cast a shadow over global economic growth.
President Donald Trump is set to meet Vice Premier Liu He, who is leading the Chinese side in the talks, later on Thursday.
Hopes of a trade deal have helped fuel the S&P 500's strong start to the second quarter. The index has closed higher each day this week so far. It has reached its highest level since Oct. 9 and is only 1.8% below its all-time closing high.
Yet a lack of further milestones on trade kept some investors on the sidelines on Thursday.
"Trade has been in the news the last couple of days, but there hasn't been a lot of other market-moving stuff, so the rally has backed off somewhat," said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at D.A. Davidson in Seattle.
Gains in Facebook and Boeing shares helped push the S&P 500 forward.
Facebook rose 1.6%, contributing to a 0.7% gain in the communication services sector, after brokerage Guggenheim upgraded the social media company's stock to "buy" from "neutral."
Boeing climbed 3.1%, adding the most to gains on the Dow and the S&P industrial index, which rose 0.5%.
Ethiopian investigators urged Boeing to review its flight control technology in the first public findings on the March crash of a 737 MAX jet. A Morgan Stanley analyst said the report potentially took the worst case scenario of an entirely new cause off the table.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 157.41 points, or 0.6%, to 26,375.54, the S&P 500 gained 4.8 points, or 0.17%, to 2,878.2 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.03 points, or 0.03%, to 7,893.53.
Dampening the mood somewhat were worries of a global economic slowdown as data earlier in the day showed German industrial orders in February fell at their sharpest rate in more than two years.
The numbers from Europe's biggest economy follows disappointing U.S. services sector activity and private payrolls data on Wednesday.
Investors will get a clearer picture of the strength in the U.S. labour market on Friday, when the non-farm payrolls report is expected.
Also, in less positive trade news, Trump raised the possibility of imposing tariffs on car imports from Mexico unless the country does more to stop illegal immigration and drugs. He backed away from a previous threat to shut down the southern U.S. border, however.
The Nasdaq was on track to end a five-day run of gains, pressured by a fall in the shares of Microsoft Corp and Tesla Inc.
Tesla shares tumbled 7.7% after the electric carmaker's deliveries fell 31% in the first quarter on challenges in shipping to Europe and China.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher. Conversely, the technology sector fell 0.4%.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.52-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.29-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 19 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 44 new highs and 28 new lows.