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* Trump expected to hold off on auto tariffs - officials
* Mnuchin says trade talks likely to continue in Beijing
* U.S. retail sales, factory output unexpectedly fall in April
* Uber and Lyft on the road for 2nd straight day of gains
* Indexes up: Dow 0.68%, S&P 0.79%, Nasdaq 1.25% (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline, byline)
By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - Wall Street turned positive on Wednesday following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump would hold off on imposing tariffs on imported cars and parts, easing slowdown fears after downbeat economic data.
Technology stocks led all three major U.S. indexes into the black, setting them up for a second day of gains, but S&P 500 remained about 3% below its all-time high reached just over two weeks ago.
The prospect of a six-month delay in tariffs on imported autos and auto parts, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s remarks that he expects trade talks to resume soon in China, was welcome news to investors, who started the session in a selling mood after the disappointing economic reports.
Retail sales unexpectedly dropped in April as consumers curbed their spending, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. In a separate report from the Labor Department, U.S. industrial production also unexpectedly dipped in April.
The U.S. data, along with weaker-than-expected economic numbers from China, showed a dimmer picture of global growth against the backdrop of an increasingly bellicose trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
“The market was selling but rebounded,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “It’s symptomatic of a market that’s in short-term mode right now and what’s driving that right now is trade.”
“We’ve got an investor populace that’s trying to see if the recent pullback is an opportunity, to take advantage of the dip and deploy extra cash,” Carlson added.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 173.38 points, or 0.68%, to 25,705.43, the S&P 500 gained 22.3 points, or 0.79%, to 2,856.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 96.90 points, or 1.25%, to 7,831.40.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but financials were in positive territory, with communications services enjoying the largest percentage gain, led by Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc.
With 455 of S&P 500 companies having posted results, first-quarter earnings season is winding down. Of those who have reported, 75.2% have bested Street expectations.
Analysts now see first-quarter earnings growth of 1.2%, a significant turnaround from the 2% loss seen on April 1.
Macy’s Inc slid 1.1% after the department store beat quarterly expectations but said the recent tariff hikes on Chinese goods will hurt its furniture business.
Agilent Technologies Inc was the worst performer of the S&P 500, falling 10.8% after the medical equipment maker reported quarterly profit that fell short of consensus estimates.
Ride-hailing rivals Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc were on the road to their second straight day of gains following their unimpressive post-debut performances. Their shares were up 2.1% and 6.5%, respectively.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.21-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.45-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 62 new highs and 66 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp Editing by Susan Thomas)