S&P 500 ends up 17% in year’s first half, best since 1997

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Wall Street stocks advanced on Friday, concluding a banner first half of the year even as a prolonged US-China trade war led to losses on the week.

The broad-based S&P 500 finished the session at 2,941.76, up 0.6 percent for the day. The index has risen 17.3 percent so far this year, the best first half of a year since 1997.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3 percent to 26,559.96, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.5 percent to 8,006.24.

As it has all week, Friday’s session was shadowed by anticipation of talks between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Some leading market watchers think the two sides will agree to a cease-fire on new tariffs but not reach a comprehensive agreement.

The strong performance thus far in 2019 is due in part to optimism over a trade deal, as well as relief at a shift in tone from the Federal Reserve towards a dovish posture, signaling that it is leaning toward cutting interest rates.

At the same time, most analysts do not consider a recession likely in the near term.

A note on Friday from Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman said data released Friday on personal income and spending suggest “that the consumer economy could still be the engine of growth, at least domestically, and that the trade tariffs have only had a minor effect on demand, so far.”

Large banks were big gainers after the Federal Reserve cleared most of the industry to boost investor payouts. Both Bank of America and Goldman Sachs rose almost three percent.

Apple dropped 0.9 percent after the tech giant announced that longtime design chief Jony Ive would step down to start his own firm.

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