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US markets end higher amid optimism about US-China trade talks

The US markets ended higher on Friday, with gains of over half a percent, amid optimism about US-China trade talks coupled with indications of more Chinese economic stimulus. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged support for the slowing economy. Li said the country could use reserve requirements and interest rates to prevent a sharper deceleration in the world's second-largest economy. Investors overlooked the disappointing US economic data, including a Federal Reserve report showing industrial production rose by much less than expected in the month of February. The Fed said industrial production inched up by 0.1% in February after falling by a revised 0.4% in January. Street had expected production to climb by 0.4% compared to the 0.6% drop originally reported for the previous month. The uptick in production came as a spike in utilities output and an increase in mining output was largely offset by a continued drop in manufacturing output.

Besides, a separate report from the New York Fed showed an unexpected slowdown in regional manufacturing growth in the month of March. The New York Fed said its headline general business conditions index fell to 3.7 in March after climbing to 8.8 in February. While a positive reading still indicates growth in regional manufacturing activity, investors had expected the index to rise to 10.0. The index remained below 10 for the third straight month, which the New York Fed said suggests growth has remained quite a bit slower so far this year than it was for most of 2018. Meanwhile, preliminary data released by the University of Michigan on Friday showed a significant improvement in US consumer sentiment in the month of March. The report said the consumer sentiment index jumped to 97.8 in March from the final February reading of 93.8. Street had expected the index to rise to 95.3.

Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 138.93 points or 0.54 percent to 25848.87, Nasdaq gained 57.62 points or 0.76 percent to 7688.53 and S&P 500 was up by 14.00 points or 0.50 percent to 2822.48.

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