U.S. stocks end higher, extending rebound as trade fears ease

U.S. stock benchmarks on Thursday finished firmly higher, with the Dow booking a 1% gain, ahead of a closely watched reading of employment due on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 1%, or about 240 points, at 24,500, buoyed by gains in the shares of Boeing Co. and Caterpillar Inc. which rallied by at least 2% on the back of expectations that China and the U.S. will ease long-simmering trade tensions by negotiating a bilateral pact. The blue-chip gauge marked its longest win streak, at three consecutive days, since the three-day period ended Feb. 26, according to FactSet data. Tariff-fueled fears have been attributed to some of the recent angst permeating market sentiment. The S&P 500 index rose 0.7% at 2,662, while the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.5% at 7,076. On Wednesday, the indexes staged a a dramatic turnaround as trade fears appeared to take a backseat to a focus on jobs and coming earnings reports. For the first quarter 2018 reporting period, the estimated earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 17.3%. On the jobs front, the mean estimate of analysts polled by MarketWatch is for 200,000 jobs to have been added in March, and Average hourly earnings are seen growing 0.2%.