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Wall St. advances as earnings, economic data beat expectations

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street extended its rally 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 U.S. stock indexes were up about 1%, bringing the bellwether S&P 500 to within 2% of an all-time high reached on April 30.

While the escalating U.S.-China tariff war continued to be a concern for market participants, upbeat quarterly results and data pointing to a strong U.S. 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 U.S. 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, the number of Americans applying for unemployment fell more than expected last week.

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

Washington placed Huawei Technologies Co on a blacklist which bans it from acquiring components and technology from U.S. firms without prior approval.

ÔÇ£This may be a precursor to a continued and larger trade conflict,ÔÇØ Carter added.

Shares of Huawei suppliers Qorvo Inc, Skyworks Solutions Inc, Qualcomm Inc, Xilinx Inc and Micron Technology Inc were all trading lower on the news.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index was down 1.6%.

Electric automaker Tesla Inc dropped 1.3% following safety agency reports that the Autopilot feature was engaged during a fatal crash in Florida in March.

Ride-hailing companies Uber Technologies and Lyft Inc were enjoying a third day of gains after spending much of their post-debut trading days in negative territory. 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 2,882.15 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 gains as Treasury yields rose 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 Refinitiv data.

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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 by 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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