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Wall St. advances as earnings, economic data beat expectations

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street extended in afternoon trading on Thursday as upbeat earnings and strong economic data put investors in a buying mood, with technology companies leading the charge.

All three major US stock indexes were up about 1%, bringing the bellwether S&P 500 to within 2% of all-time high reached on April 30.

While escalating the US-China tariff, was a concern for market participants, upbeat quarterly results and data pointing to a strong US economy helped ease trade-related jitters.

Walmart rose 1.9% after its first-quarter results beat analyst expectations.

Cisco Systems jumped 7.2% and shares were on track for their biggest percentage gain since February 2016 after better-than -expected quarterly results

On the economic front, groundbreaking on new US homes increased more than expected in April, according to the Commerce Department, as declining interest rates provided support to the struggling housing sector.

The S&P 1500 Homebuilding index was up 1.4%.

In a separate report from the Labor Department , number of Americans applying for unemployment fell more than expected last week.

"Outside of the trade conflict, we're seeing healthy earnings, good valuations and signs of economic growth," said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York. "However, the trade conflict will be the key driver going forward."

Washington placed Huawei Technologies Co. on blacklist which bans it from acquiring components and technology from U.S.

"Shares of Huawei suppliers Qorvo Inc., Skyworks Solutions Inc., Qualcomm Inc., Xilinx Inc. and Micron Technology Inc were The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index was down 1.6%

Electric automaker Tesla Inc. dropped 1.3% following the safety agency reports that the Autopilot feature was engaged during a fatal crash in Florida in March. 19659016] Ride-hailing companies Uber Technologies and Lifting Inc were enjoying a third day of negative territory after spending much of their post-debut trading days. Their shares were up 4.4% and 3.9% respectively

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 241.74 points, or 0.94%, to 25.889.76, the S&P 500 gained 31.19 points, or 1.09%, to 2.8282.15 and the Nasdaq Composite added 87.01 points, or 1.11%, to 7,909.16

All 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 were trading in positive territory, with materials and interest rate-sensitive financials seeing the largest percentage of gains as treasury yields on upbeat economic data. ] A mostly upbeat first quarter earnings season is beginning to wind down, with 457 S&P 500 companies having reported. Of those, about 75% have beaten profit expectations, according to refinitive data

Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings growth of 1.4%, a significant improvement over the 2% loss expected on April 1.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE at a 2.63-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.55-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 51 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 87 new highs and 59 new lows.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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