December 26, 2019 / 3:08 PM / 25 days ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500, Nasdaq hit fresh record highs on trade deal hopes

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* China says in close contact with U.S. on trade pact

* Tesla gains as Wedbush hikes price target

* Holiday season online sales hit all-time high - report

* Indexes rise: Dow 0.19%, S&P 0.25%, Nasdaq 0.33% (Updates price action)

By Manas Mishra

Dec 26 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes hit fresh record highs on Thursday on optimism over an imminent U.S.-China trade deal that has put the benchmark index on track for its best year since 2013.

Traders returned from the Christmas break to Beijing’s reaffirmation that it was in close contact with Washington about the initial agreement, which is widely expected to be signed in early January.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed that the pact would be formalized at a signing ceremony, but did not disclose a date or location.

“It looks like everybody had a good Christmas, and that is slopping over into today’s stock action,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the prolonged trade war, combined with a loose monetary policy and robust domestic data, have powered U.S. stocks to record highs in the past few weeks.

The S&P 500 is about 1 percentage point short of its best year since 1997.

At 9:51 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 54.85 points, or 0.19%, at 28,570.30, the S&P 500 was up 7.90 points, or 0.25%, at 3,231.28. The Nasdaq Composite was up 29.61 points, or 0.33%, at 8,982.50.

Trading volumes are expected to remain thin this week.

A Labor Department report on Thursday showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, indicating resilience in the labor market.

Underlining relatively strong consumer confidence, a report on Wednesday showed U.S. shoppers spent more online during the holiday shopping season, with e-commerce sales hitting a record high.

Amazon.com Inc rose 1.3%, the biggest boost to S&P 500 index. Its shares also pushed up the consumer discretionary index, which rose 0.4%, the most among the 11 S&P 500 sectors.

Tesla Inc shares edged up 0.5% as Wedbush boosted its price target on the electric-car maker’s stock, partly on expectations of strong U.S. demand for Model 3 sedans.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.43-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 62 new highs and 10 new lows. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur)

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