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Stocks climb, for calm end to markets' turbulent quarter

Stock trader Gregory Rowe works at the NYSE

Stock trader Gregory Rowe works at the NYSE on Sept. 18. Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

U.S. stocks climbed on Monday and gave one last nudge to ensure the S&P 500 emerged from yet another tumultuous quarter with a modest gain.

As has been the case throughout the quarter, movements in President Donald Trump's trade war with China helped drive the market on Monday. Investors found encouragement after China said that its top trade negotiator will lead talks with the United States that are expected to take place next week. The Trump administration also calmed some worries that it may limit U.S. investment in Chinese companies.

The developments helped push technology stocks higher in particular. Those companies often move along with news about trade because of how reliant they are on China as both a customer and a supplier. The S&P 500 climbed 14.95 points, or 0.5%, to 2,976.74. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 96.58, or 0.4%, to 26,916.83, and the Nasdaq composite added 59.71, or 0.8%, to 7,999.34.

The moves left the S&P 500 with a 1.2% gain for the quarter. While that was its smallest quarterly gain this year, the index had been on track for a much worse performance just a month ago.

"The consumer's been enough to keep the economy moving, but things like consumer confidence seem to be plateauing," said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management.

In the next few weeks, companies are scheduled to tell investors how much profit they made during the third quarter. Expectations are generally low again, with analysts forecasting a drop of nearly 4% from a year ago. The results, plus what CEOs say about their spending and revenue forecasts, should give a better picture of the economy's potential direction.

"We need that earnings engine to kick in to drive markets higher," Roland said.

Last year, the S&P 500 slumped 14% in the fourth quarter for its worst performance in seven years when fear spiked that the Federal Reserve's plans to keep raising interest rates and a slowing global economy would knock the United States into a recession.

This time around, the Federal Reserve has shifted gears, and many investors expect the central bank to cut rates at least one more time this year. That could help support markets, even with all the potential flashpoints on the calendar.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.84 to settle at $54.07 per barrel Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $1.13 to $60.78 a barrel.

Natural gas dropped 7 cents to $2.33 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil lost 4 cents to $1.91 per gallon and wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to $1.60 per gallon.

Gold fell $33.40 to $1,465.70 per ounce, silver fell 65 cents to $16.90 per ounce and copper fell 2 cents to $2.56 per pound.

Stock markets around the world were mixed during the quarter, as European growth remained stubbornly weak and Hong Kong saw increasingly violent political protests. In Europe, France's CAC 40 finished with a 2.5% gain for the quarter. Germany's DAX rose 0.2%, and the FTSE 100 lost 0.2%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 2.3% for the quarter, while South Korea's Kospi fell 3.2% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 8.6%.

The dollar rose to 108.07 Japanese yen from 107.81 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.0902 from $1.0941.

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