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Stocks Edge Toward Record as Trade Tensions Ease Further

Stocks in the United States closed in on a record high on Thursday, as Washington and Beijing took steps to reduce the tensions between them over trade.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent in early trading, inching closer to its July 26 high of 3,026.

The gains were the latest in a nearly three-week run that has lifted the benchmark index almost 6 percent as expectations rose that China and the United States would resume trade negotiations after a noisy, public breakdown hammered stocks in early August.

President Trump said on Wednesday that the United States would delay the next round of tariff increases on Chinese imports, which had been set to take effect Oct. 1, two weeks. His announcement came after Beijing said that a small number of American products would be exempt from Chinese tariffs to be imposed soon and that more exemptions would follow.

The moves could create a positive atmosphere for Chinese and American trade negotiators when they meet next month, but they do not address the most contentious issues standing in the way of a deal, including White House concerns about China’s practice of forced technology transfers by American companies.

For financial markets, the worry has been that the continuing conflict has begun to sap the economy and erode corporate profits.

Unemployment in the United States remains near a 50-year low, but Labor Department data for August showed a slowing in hiring. Key gauges of manufacturing activity suggest that it may be contracting. Business investment has slowed.

But trading in stock and other markets have suggested that investors are less panicked about the risk of a recession. Yields on government bonds, which had plunged this year as investors lowered their expectations for growth, have been moving higher. Oil prices, which flirted with falling below $50 a barrel in early August, have risen too.

Any indication of a de-escalation in the fight between China and the United States would probably continue to give stocks a lift, analysts say. A decision by the Federal Reserve on interest rates next week could also help, if Jerome H. Powell, the chair, delivers a reassuring message to investors.

On Thursday, Europe’s central bank took unexpectedly aggressive steps to stimulate the eurozone economy, addressing a downturn before it gains momentum. The move helped lift shares in Europe.

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