Wall St. inches higher as tech boost offsets Sino-U.S. worries

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday as a boost from technology stocks along with optimism about another round of stimulus for the virus-stricken economy overshadowed worries over a spike in tensions between the United States and China.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) rose ahead of their quarterly results due after markets close, helping the Nasdaq outperform the other two major indexes.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index .SOX rose 0.6% after Texas Instruments Inc (TXN.O) forecast third-quarter revenue above estimates as a global shift to work-from-home boosted demand for chips used in tablets, personal computers and servers.

The technology sector .SPLRCT rose more than any S&P sector.

“One reason for the enthusiasm that investors have had with tech stocks is because they are coming through in terms of maintaining their earnings growth and advancing revenue increases,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

A largely upbeat start to the second-quarter earnings season, hopes for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine and an expected official support for the economy has brought the S&P 500 about 4% below its record February closing high.

U.S. Republicans and Democrats remained far apart on Tuesday on how much to spend on the next round of coronavirus relief as they raced to craft a legislation before unemployment insurance for Americans thrown out of work expire by the end of this month.

Earlier on Wednesday, futures had taken a hit after Washington told China to close its consulate in Houston, citing a need to protect American intellectual property and information, deepening a deterioration in bilateral relations. A source said Beijing was considering shutting down the U.S. consulate in Wuhan.

“We have enough uncertainty related to the coronavirus and the heating up of dispute between China and U.S. is not helping matters,” Stovall said.

At 10:30 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 22.35 points, or 0.08%, at 26,862.75 and the S&P 500 .SPX was up 3.33 points, or 0.10%, at 3,260.63. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 17.90 points, or 0.17%, at 10,698.26.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) jumped 2.4% as the drugmaker and German biotech firm BioNTech SE (22UAy.F) said they would get $1.95 billion from the U.S. government to produce and deliver 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc (HCA.N) surged 10.9%, the most on the S&P 500, after reporting better-than-expected quarterly revenue. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (TMO.N) jumped 2.9% after the scientific instruments maker beat second-quarter results.

Snap Inc (SNAP.N) declined 7.6% as it forecast fewer current-quarter users than estimates and said the initial lift in user growth at the start of coronavirus-led lockdowns dissipated faster than it expected.

Advancing issues nearly matched decliners on the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 32 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 59 new highs and six new lows.

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