Wall Street near highs after upbeat earnings run

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By Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) – Wall Street was on course to open close to record highs on Wednesday as investors digested a corporate earnings season that has seen the bulk of U.S.-listed firms best analysts’ expectations, funding another round of stock market gains.

Eyes remained glued to any signs of progress in trade talks between Washington and Beijing with latest reports saying the two sides were still working out the details of a “phase one” trade deal which could be signed later this month.

Latest data has also improved sentiment, with the ISM services index easing concerns that a slowdown in the manufacturing sector was spreading to other parts of the economy.

Of the 383 S&P 500 companies to have reported third-quarter results so far, nearly three quarters have beaten profit expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

To some extent, however, those figures reflect the significantly lowered expectations of analysts, who had forecast the first earnings drop since late 2016 and many players say they have doubts about the market’s ability to rally much further this year.

At 07:29 a.m. ET, were up just 27 points, or 0.1%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.75 points, or 0.09% and were up 7.25 points, or 0.09%.

Humana Inc (N:) rose 3.9% as the health insurer reported quarterly profit that beat estimates on higher sales of its government-backed Medicare Advantage health plans, and raised its full-year earnings forecast.

CVS Health Corp (N:) gained 2.6% in premarket trading after the pharmacy chain posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, partly boosted by its pharmacy benefit management unit.

But shares of Match Group Inc (O:) fell 10.4% after the Tinder-owner forecast fourth-quarter revenue below estimates in the face of stiff competition from rival online dating services. Its parent firm, IAC/InterActiveCorp (O:), dropped 7.1%.

Shares of DaVita Inc (N:) rose 7.3% after the company reported better-than-expected third-quarter results.

HP Inc (N:) jumped 8.4% after a report that Xerox Holdings Corp (N:) was considering an offer for the personal computer maker at a premium to its market value of about $27 billion. Xerox shares were down 3.1%.

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