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Apple, easing trade fears send Wall St up

Caroline Valetkevitch

Apple has led a rebound in technology shares and boosted all three major US stock indexes, while trade worries eased after China welcomed new talks with the United States.

The Dow inched closer to its all-time high that was hit on January 26, closing at its highest since February 1 on Thursday and just 1.8 per cent below the January 26 close.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq had already moved past their January peaks to record highs in prior weeks.

The S&P technology index climbed 1.2 per cent on Thursday, its biggest percentage gain since August 2, boosted by Apple's 2.4 per cent gain.

The timing of a new round of trade talks remains unclear and US President Donald Trump said the United States was under no pressure to make a deal with China.

Portfolio manager at Allianz Global Investors in Dallas, Burns McKinney, said stocks already had a boost on Wednesday when investors got word the Trump administration had reached out to China on trade talks.

"The inflation numbers came out lower than people had expected," McKinney said.

"That's a positive because it gives the (Federal Reserve) cover to maybe move slower in raising interest rates, which is good for equities."

US consumer prices rose less than expected in August and underlying inflation pressures also appeared to be slowing, a report from the US Labor Department showed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 147.07 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 26,145.99, the S&P 500 gained 15.26 points, or 0.53 per cent, to 2,904.18 and the Nasdaq Composite added 59.48 points, or 0.75 per cent, to 8,013.71.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration invited Beijing for a new round of talks, even as Washington prepared to slap tariffs on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The trade-sensitive industrial index rose 0.5 per cent. Caterpillar was up 0.9 per cent and Boeing rose 0.6 per cent.

Apple, which has said tariffs could hit a "wide range" of its products, fell on Wednesday when it unveiled its largest-ever iPhone, but made only small, widely expected changes to its line-up.

Shares of Home Depot slipped 1.2 per cent, Lowe's Cos fell 1.4 per cent and Beacon Roofing Supply dropped 5.9 per cent as Hurricane Florence, which began lashing coastal North Carolina, was downgraded to a category 2.

The S&P consumer staples index dropped 0.4 per cent as shares of Kroger weighed on the sector.

Kroger slid 9.9 per cent after the supermarket chain's same-store sales missed estimates as customers were put off by changes in how it stocked merchandise.

Chipmakers bounced back from a slide on Wednesday, with the Philadelphia semiconductor index up 1.2 per cent.

Qualcomm rose 4.0 per cent after it said it would buy back about $US16 billion of its stock.

Late in the session, a Republican-led panel in the US House of Representatives voted to make permanent individual tax cuts from Trump's 2017 tax overhaul, a move seen as a way to help Republican candidates in the November congressional elections.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.09-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 61 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 120 new highs and 59 new lows.

About 6.7 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges. That compares with the 6.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.