September 25, 2019 / 5:40 PM / 20 days ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set for best day in two weeks on Trump trade comments

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* Nike shares hit record high on upbeat results

* Philip Morris jumps on calling off Altria merger

* Boeing hits 5-1/2 mth high after board sets up safety committee

* Aug. new home sales rise more than expected

* Indexes up: Dow 0.56%, S&P 0.31%, Nasdaq 0.44% (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick

Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes were set for their best day in two weeks on Wednesday after President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China could happen sooner than expected, while Nike shares hit a record high on upbeat quarterly results.

Wall Street had a sluggish start after Democratic lawmakers moved to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump, adding fresh uncertainty for markets already roiled by the U.S.-China trade tussle and worries over slowing global economic growth.

Trump’s comments were in contrast to his harsh rhetoric on Tuesday on the trade dispute, which rattled global stock markets on Wednesday.

“Its good news that (Trump) thinks the talks are making progress, but ultimately what investors want to see is a signed agreement,” said Michael Geraghty, equity strategist at Cornerstone Capital Group.

“The talks with China continue but as we have seen in the past, apparent progress is later undone because of a hard-line stance by either both countries or one of the countries.”

Nike Inc shares jumped 3.7% to a record high and were among the top boosts to the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 after the company’s first-quarter results beat market expectations.

Footwear retailer Foot Locker Inc gained 2.3%.

Boeing Co rose 1.8% after the aircraft maker said it created a new permanent safety committee in the aftermath of two fatal 737 MAX crashes. The stock touched a more than 5-1/2 month high earlier in the session.

Shares in Philip Morris surged 6.1% after the tobacco company called off merger talks with Altria Group Inc and said it would instead focus on the U.S. launch of its tobacco-heating product, iQOS.

The trade-sensitive Philadelphia chip index gained 0.70%, while the broader technology sector rose 0.45%.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were in the black, with the defensive utilities, real estate and healthcare sectors on the back foot.

“I don’t think the impeachment issue is weighing on markets, or will weigh on markets (in the near term) ... However, if it eventually results in gridlock in Washington, then that certainly could concern investors and we could see that being reflected in stock prices,” Cornerstone Capital’s Geraghty added.

At 13:09 ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 149.81 points, or 0.56%, at 26,957.58 and the S&P 500 was up 9.26 points, or 0.31%, at 2,975.86. The Nasdaq Composite was up 34.94 points, or 0.44%, at 8,028.57.

Marathon Petroleum Corp rose 7.7% and was among the top gainers on the S&P 500 after activist investor Elliott Management renewed its demand for splitting the company into three.

Chipmaker Broadcom Inc dropped 3.3% and was the biggest loser on the S&P 500 after it priced an upsized offering of convertible preferred stock.

Data showed that sales of new U.S. single-family homes rebounded more than expected in August, a sign that the struggling housing market was starting to get a lift from lower borrowing rates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.17-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.35-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 5 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 17 new highs and 90 new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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