(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes climbed on Friday, after a quiet week, as strong economic data from China fed into optimism around trade but muted U.S. economic data kept a lid on gains.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A private survey showed China’s factory activity contracted for a third straight month in February but at a slower pace, lifting global equities.

“Certainly trade optimism is a driver for the markets right now. If China data continues to improve, that will start to put people’s minds at ease about whether China is in recession,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

Early gains petered out after ISM data showed U.S. manufacturing activity for February dropped to its lowest since November 2016 and the University of Michigan survey showed consumer sentiment fell short of expectations in the month.

“At this point a little bit of a wet blanket is thrown over the rally, based on the U.S. economic data,” said Antonelli.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is set to snap a three-day losing streak. The index has risen more than 11 percent this year, bolstered by progress in trade talks and the Federal Reserve’s cautious stance on interest rates.

Of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors, six were higher. The healthcare sector rose 0.85 percent, providing the biggest boost, supported by gains in health insurers Cigna Corp and UnitedHealth Group.

The consumer discretionary sector rose 0.46 percent, lifted by a 6 percent jump in shares of Foot Locker.

The footwear retailer beat quarterly same-store sales estimates and helped drive a 1.17 percent gain in supplier Nike Inc shares.

At 11:30 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 58.60 points, or 0.23 percent, at 25,974.60. The S&P 500 was up 8.15 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,792.64 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 23.28 points, or 0.31 percent, at 7,555.81.

After President Donald Trump delayed a deadline that would have triggered higher tariffs on Chinese imports, Bloomberg reported on Thursday afternoon that a summit between Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sign a final trade deal could happen as soon as mid-March.

Among other stocks, Gap Inc surged 19.5 percent, the most on the S&P, after the company said it would separate its better-performing Old Navy brand and shutter about 230 stores of its struggling namesake apparel business.

Drug retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc fell 5.4 percent, the most on the S&P, after brokerage Baird cut its price target.

A Commerce Department report showed inflation pressures remaining tame, which along with slowing domestic and global economic growth, gave more credence to the Federal Reserve’s “patient” stance toward raising interest rates further this year.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.36-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 45 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 67 new highs and 22 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Sriraj Kalluvila


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