landsberg bennettStocks finished higher Thursday. The Dow gained 162 points to 24,370 while the S&P 500 climbed 19 points to 2,635. The Nasdaq Composite added 49 points to 7,084.

The major averages advanced amid a report that Trump administration officials favored easing tariffs on Chinese goods. Gains were capped, however, after the Treasury Department denied the reports. Investors welcomed the conflicting, but optimistic headlines following earlier news that U.S. prosecutors are investigating Chinese company Huawei Technologies. On the data front, a report showed business activity in the Philadelphia Fed region expanded at a faster-than-projected pace in January. In a separate release, initial jobless claims inched down to 213,000 in the most recent week after coming in at 216,000 the prior period.

All 11 S&P 500 sectors ended in positive territory. Materials paced gains with Alcoa adding 2.1% to $29.59 despite the aluminum maker hinting that supply may outpace demand in 2019. Industrials also outperformed with Fastenal jumping 6.0% to $57.34 after revealing earnings and revenue was in-line with Wall Street expectations. Morgan Stanley was a notable decliner, with shares off 4.4% to $42.53 after reporting its trading and wealth management businesses were negatively influenced by the fourth-quarter market volatility.

Breadth was positive on issues by roughly 3:1 on the NYSE and 2:1 on the Nasdaq. Composite NYSE Volume was more than 3.7 billion shares.

Treasuries were mixed with the yield of the 10-year note up one basis point to 2.74%. In commodities, WTI crude fell 0.1% to $52.26/barrel. COMEX gold lost 0.2% to $1291.20/ounce amid a stronger dollar.