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Stocks End Higher on Hopes of U.S.-China Trade Deal

Stocks finish slightly higher Thursday on hopes for a U.S.-China trade deal.

Stocks finished modestly higher Thursday as investors reacted to mixed signals about a possible U.S.-China trade deal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had been wavering most of the day, finished up 28 points, or 0.10%, to 27,677. The S&P 500 rose 0.15% and the Nasdaq advanced 0.05%.

Nike (NKE) - Get Nike Inc. Report, Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report, and UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (DE) Report led the Dow's advance.

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday that the U.S. and China remain in close communications regarding trade. But he stuck to China's demand that the U.S. roll back existing and pending tariffs on China-made goods to cement a so-called phase-one agreement.

“China believes if both sides reach a phase-one agreement, relevant tariffs must be lowered,” he said.

Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a state-controlled Chinese newspaper, on Wednesday dismissed U.S. optimism about a trade deal,

"I predict there is a high probability that President Trump or a senior US official will openly say in a few hours that China-US trade talks have made a big progress in order to pump up the US stock markets," he wrote on Twitter. "They've been doing this a lot."

He ended his comment with a smiley face emoji.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had shaken up markets earlier this week when he said a trade agreement might have to wait until after the 2020 elections, said on Wednesday that he thought the trade talks were going very well.

"The China trade deal is the stock market equivalent of 'The Myth of Sisyphus,'" said Real Money contributor James "Rev Shark" DePorre. In the stock market, "we are condemned to repeatedly watch stocks rally on trade news, only to have them pull back when the deal is not done. Over and over the pattern repeats and it feels like it will last forever."

Separately, Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies on Wednesday filed a fresh legal challenge against the U.S., looking to block a Federal Communications Commission decision last month that further restricts the Chinese telecom giant’s ability to operate in the country.

Huawei said the FCC order, blocking rural U.S. wireless carriers from using a $8.5 billion-a-year subsidy fund to buy equipment from Huawei, violates its due process rights and unfairly labels the company as a national security threat, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

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State-controlled Saudi Arabian Oil Co., commonly known as Aramco, raised $25.6 billion in the world's biggest IPO, passing Chinese online commerce company Alibaba’s record $25 billion listing in 2014.

The share pricing would give Aramco a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, short of the $2 trillion valuation sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries began meeting Thursday in Vienna. Members of the group are expected to agree to deeper output cuts for next year from their current reduction of 1.2 million barrels a day, which expires at the end of March. An OPEC official said late Thursday that a planned press conference had been cancelled.

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of OPEC was recommending an additional reduction of 500,000 barrels a day, according to Bloomberg.

Slack (WORK) - Get Slack Technologies, Inc. Class A Report rose 5.1% to $22.76 after the messaging company beat analysts' third-quarter top- and bottom-line expectations. Its fourth-quarter guidance was slightly lighter than expected.

Tiffany (TIF) - Get Tiffany & Co. Report dipped slightly to $133.59 after the jeweler reported fiscal-third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts' expectations, even as it continued to register double-digit growth in the lucrative Chinese market.

United Airlines (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report slipped modestly to $87.86 after the airline said that Scott Kirby, currently the company's president, will take over from Chief Executive Oscar Munoz in May. Kirby, former president of American Airlines,  (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group Inc. Report joined the airline in August 2016. Munoz suffered a heart attack and received a transplant in January 2016.

Biogen (BIIB) - Get Biogen Inc. Report rose 3.4% to $299.39 after Reuters reported that the drugmaking giant presented new data on its experimental Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab that did not reveal any new safety concerns.

In economic news, initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 203,000 for the week ended Nov. 30, the lowest level since mid-April, the Labor Department said.

October factory-goods orders increased 0.3% also as bookings for computers and electronic products rose, the Commerce Department said.

Data for September was revised down to show orders dropping 0.8% instead of falling 0.6% as was previously reported. 

October’s gain in factory orders was in line with economists’ expectations. Factory orders slipped 0.4% compared with October 2018.