January 17, 2020 / 5:12 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall St at record levels after strong U.S., China data

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* U.S. housing starts race to 13-year high in December

* Schlumberger rises after Q4 earnings beat

* J B Hunt results drag down Dow Transports index

* Indexes up: Dow 0.12%, S&P 0.18%, Nasdaq 0.02% (Adds details, updates prices, changes comment)

By Sruthi Shankar

Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes nudged higher to fresh record levels on Friday after strong housing data and indications of resilience in the Chinese economy raised hopes of a rebound in global growth.

Investor sentiment has brightened this week after the world’s top two economies took the first step in calling a truce to their 18-month tariff dispute by sealing a Phase 1 trade deal. Wall Street’s three main indexes were on track to end the week with gains of over 1.5%.

Demand for risky assets improved after data showed China ended 2019 on a somewhat firmer note, even as economic growth cooled to its weakest in nearly 30 years in the last year.

Meanwhile, U.S. homebuilding surged to a 13-year high in December, suggesting the housing market recovery was back on track amid low mortgage rates.

“Housing reports have come out quite positive, the job growth continues to be healthy and all the worries we had about a recession seem to have passed,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network, an independent broker-dealer.

“That being the case, the only worry is earnings, but they seem to be coming out quite well so far.”

Analysts expect profits at S&P 500 companies to drop 0.8% in the fourth quarter, but they call for 5.8% growth in the first quarter of 2020, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

At 11:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.12% to 29,331.67.

The S&P 500 gained 0.18% to 3,322.76 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.02% at 9,359.01.

After an upbeat showing from banks earlier this week, oilfield service provider Schlumberger NV reported a slightly better-than-expected quarterly profit, sending its shares up 1.3%.

Google-parent Alphabet Inc rose 0.8%, extending gains after it became the fourth U.S. company to top a market value of $1 trillion on Thursday.

The Dow Jones Transports index fell 0.3% after disappointing earnings from J B Hunt Transport Services Inc and CSX Corp.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.11-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.12-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 118 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 177 new highs and seven new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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