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US stock indexes on track to cap week with more record highs

Stocks moved broadly higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Friday, placing the major indexes on track to set new highs. Health care and technology stocks powered much of the rally, which had the S&P 500 heading for its sixth straight weekly gain. The benchmark index moved above 3,100 points after briefly reaching that threshold earlier in the week.

The gains capped a week of slight, if milestone-setting moves in the market as investors mostly shrugged off published reports suggesting that trade talks between the U.S. and China have hit a snag. U.S. officials gave a rosier update Friday, saying they were making progress in the latest push for a trade agreement with China.

“Over the past week the market absorbed a number of challenging trade headlines, and it didn’t go down,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “It might just be the case that with positive momentum, after not having had a chance to pull the market down, the bulls stepped in again and said ‘let’s keep this thing going.’”

A report showing U.S. retail sales rebounded a modest 0.3% in October after falling the previous month also helped put traders in a buying mood. J.C. Penney surged after it raised its profit forecast.

Health care stocks were big winners, led by solid gains by health insurers after the Trump administration announced a rule forcing hospitals to make public the rates they negotiate with insurers for their services.

Technology stocks also helped drive the market higher. Companies in the sector are particularly sensitive to swings in trade sentiment because many of them rely on China for sales and supply chains. Applied Materials surged 8.4% on solid earnings.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher, a signal that investors were shifting away from safe-play holdings. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.83% from 1.81% late Thursday. Materials stocks and makers of household goods lagged the market.

Investors hope the world’s two biggest economies can make a deal before new and more damaging tariffs take effect next month. Beijing is pressing Washington to roll back tariffs as part of a potential deal that the nations are trying to hammer out.

On Friday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business that it is likely a trade deal will get done, though he noted that it’s still possible a pact could unravel at the last minute as it did in when both sides got close to a deal in May.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was up 0.6% as of 3:36 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 173 points, or 0.6%, to 27,955. The Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies each rose 0.5%.

Asian and European markets finished higher. SLOW AND STEADY: The S&P 500 is headed for a sixth straight weekly gain. The index has set records and extended its streak during a week of mostly listless trading. It’s on track to top its record close of 3,096.63 from Thursday.

The Dow is on track for its fourth week of gains. It is poised to beat its record close of 27,783.59, which it set on Wednesday. The Nasdaq could also potentially beat its record of 8,486.09, which it set on Tuesday.

A HEALTHY BOOST: Health insurers led all health care sector stocks after the Trump administration officially announced a rule that would require hospitals and insurers to make public the rates they negotiate for drugs, doctor visits and other health care services. Humana climbed 4.4%, UnitedHealth Group rose 4.3% and Anthem gained 3.6%.

BUFFETT BUMP: Luxury retailer RH climbed 7.6% and energy company Occidental Petroleum gained 2.9% after Warren Buffett’s company disclosed that it had picked up shares of both companies. BIG FISH: Amarin jumped 10.5% after a government advisory panel recommended broader use of its fish oil-based heart disease drug Vascepa. Financial analysts predict that broader use of the drug could translate into billions in sales.

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS: J.C. Penney vaulted 8.6% after the struggling department store chain reported a smaller quarterly loss and raised its annual profit forecast.

AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

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