January 2, 2020 / 8:24 PM / 7 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St opens 2020 with new records on China stimulus, trade hopes

* China cuts banks' reserve ratios again to spur economy

* U.S. weekly jobless claims fall

* Casino stocks up as Macau December sales drop less than feared

* Indexes up: Dow 0.81%, S&P 0.52%, Nasdaq 1.03% (Updates to late afternoon, changes byline, adds NEW YORK to dateline)

By April Joyner

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Wall Street's major indexes hit record highs to open the new year on Thursday, as fresh economic stimulus from China added to optimism fueled by easing trade tensions and an improving global outlook.

China's central bank said on Wednesday it would cut the amount of cash that all banks must hold as reserves, the eighth such cut since early 2018. The move to inject fresh stimulus into the Chinese economy boosted equity markets around the globe.

The benchmark S&P 500 touched its 11th record high in 14 sessions. The Nasdaq was on track for its biggest daily percentage gain in more than a month, while the Dow was set for its largest such gain in nearly four weeks.

Economic stimulus in China, along with the easing of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, has bolstered optimism that global economy will accelerate in 2020.

The U.S.-China trade détente has fueled Wall Street's recent rally, including on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said an initial trade pact would be signed on Jan. 15.

Among the S&P 500's sectors, technology and industrials, both of which have high exposure to the Chinese economy, rose more than 1% and led in percentage gains. By contrast, the defensive utilities and real estate sectors each fell more than 1%.

"The market's been up all day because of the news that China is out there with monetary easing," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. "With the trade deal as a backdrop, it's a positive factor."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 231.9 points, or 0.81%, to 28,770.34, the S&P 500 gained 16.73 points, or 0.52%, to 3,247.51 and the Nasdaq Composite added 92.11 points, or 1.03%, to 9,064.71.

Adding to positive economic sentiment, data from the U.S. Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits edged lower last week.

Other data from Greater China showing that gross gaming revenue in Macau fell less than expected in December boosted shares of U.S. casino operators. Shares of Wynn Resorts Ltd , Las Vegas Sands Corp and Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd rose between 2% and 4%.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.13-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 48 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 103 new highs and 14 new lows. (Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Nick Zieminski)

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