Wall St gains after strong data but N.Korea worries linger

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(Reuters) – Wall Street was higher in late morning trading on Wednesday after data showed stronger-than-expected U.S. economic growth, but gains were limited by concerns about escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Gross domestic product increased at a 3.0 percent annual rate in the April-June period, its quickest pace in more than two years, according to Commerce Department data.

The upward revision of the second-quarter GDP growth data from the 2.6 percent pace reported last month reflected robust consumer spending as well as strong business investment.

Adding to the positive sentiment, a report from payroll processor ADP showed that U.S. private employers added 237,000 jobs in August for its biggest monthly increase in five months, above the 183,000 jobs expected by economists.

The report comes ahead of the more comprehensive government payrolls data for August on Friday.

Financials were among the leading gainers, with Goldman Sachs (GS.N) gaining 1.23 percent, the biggest boost to the Dow, as the robust data is expected to strengthen the Federal Reserve’s case for another rate hike this year.

The data also bolstered the dollar index .DXY, which rose 0.57 percent against a basket of currencies. The index hit a 2-1/2 year low hit on Tuesday.

Also on the radar is President Donald Trump’s first speech specifically on tax policy later in the day, which could be a fresh catalyst to send stocks higher.

“The tax reform has been one of the biggest reasons for the rally and I think it is going to go through,” said Ben Barzideh, wealth adviser at Piershale Financial Group.

“I know there is a wide disagreement on the healthcare issue. But it feels like on tax reforms, the vast majority of Republicans see eye to eye on it. I definitely expect that to happen.”

Investors are also closely tracking the ongoing tensions between the United States and North Korea after Trump dismissed any diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, saying “talking is not the answer,” a day after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

At 10:47 a.m. ET (1447 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 2.68 points, or 0.01 percent, at 21,868.05, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 4.67 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,450.97.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 30.88 points, or 0.49 percent, at 6,332.77, boosted by Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).

Four of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the energy index’s .SPNY 0.31 percent the biggest drag.

Crude oil prices slid, while gasoline futures hit their highest since mid-2015 as flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Harvey shut over a fifth of U.S. refineries. [O/R]

Among stocks, H&R Block (HRB.N) fell 7.59 percent, the top percentage loser on the S&P, after the tax preparation service provider reported a bigger-than-expected loss.

Aerovironment (AVAV.O) rose 7.38 percent after it reported a smaller-than-expected loss and revenue that beat estimate.

Analog Devices (ADI.O) was up 3.78 percent as the chipmaker’s quarterly earnings and forecast exceeded expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,404 to 1,281. On the Nasdaq, 1,544 issues rose and 1,086 fell.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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