February 25, 2019 / 1:43 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set for strong open as Trump delays tariff deadline

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* Trade-sensitive Caterpillar, Boeing rise premarket

* GE soars on sale of biopharma business for $21 bln

* Oil stocks mirror drop in crude prices

* Futures up: Dow 0.60 pct, S&P 0.50 pct, Nasdaq 0.72 pct (Adds comments, details, updates prices)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open higher on Monday, fueled by hopes of a resolution to a trade war between the United States and China after President Donald Trump said he would delay a hike in tariffs on Chinese imports.

Trump said the trade talks were “productive” and that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would meet to seal a deal if progress continued.

The announcement is the clearest sign yet that the two sides are closing in on a deal to end their prolonged trade spat, as Trump cited progress in divisive areas such as intellectual property protection, technology transfers, agriculture, services and currency.

“It’s all about the extension of the trade deadline, it buys us some time and that is a positive,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“There is enormous pressure on the administration to get this out of the way. It might take a few more weeks but I expect some sort of a trade deal to get done.”

Tariff-exposed companies Caterpillar Inc and Boeing Co rose 1 percent each, leading gains among the 26 Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks that were trading premarket.

Apple Inc shares were up 0.6 percent, as trade tensions were expected to weigh on the iPhone maker.

Semiconductor companies, which have a big exposure to China, traded higher with Micron Technology Inc, Advanced Micro Devices Inc and Intel Corp up between 1 percent and 2.5 percent.

At 8:24 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 157 points, or 0.6 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were up 14 points, or 0.5 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 50.75 points, or 0.72 percent.

Optimism on the trade front and dovish signals from the Federal Reserve have bolstered U.S. stocks in recent weeks, with the S&P 500 index about 5 percent away from its record closing high hit in late September.

The benchmark index closed up at its highest level in over three months on Friday.

General Electric Co surged 17.3 percent after the industrial conglomerate said it would sell its biopharma business to Danaher Corp for $21 billion. Shares of Danaher climbed 6.6 percent.

Newmont Mining Corp gained 1.0 percent after Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp offered to buy the company in an $18 billion stock deal.

Oil majors Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp dropped after oil prices slipped on comments from Trump who told OPEC producers to “relax” as prices were too high.

Investors will be keeping a close watch on Fed Chair Jerome Powell who is set to testify on monetary policy on Tuesday and Wednesday, almost two months after the central bank said it would be “patient” with further rate hikes. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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