Saturday, February 24

US STOCKS-Nasdaq, S&P rise on tech boost after Biden-Xi talks

* Biden urges Xi to abandon Moscow over Ukraine

* FedEx falls on lower-than-expected quarterly earnings

* Moderna up on seeking FDA authorization for second booster

* Dow down 0.35%, S&P up 0.14%, Nasdaq gains 0.93% (Adds comments, updates prices to early afternoon)

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Sabahatjahan Contractor

March 18 (Reuters) – The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 indexes inched higher in volatile trading on Friday as megacap stocks gained ground, while investors assessed the talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the Ukraine crisis.

Nvidia, Tesla, Apple and Microsoft rose between 0.6% and 2.9%, boosting the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

Biden and Xi spoke on a video call, which lasted just under two hours, about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chinese media said Xi underlined that such conflicts are in no-one’s interests. Biden was expected to tell the Chinese leader that Beijing would pay a steep price if it supports the invasion.

“The geopolitical concerns are responsible for the vast majority of the market movement this week, despite the fact that the Fed hiked interest rates,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

“China is kind of involved a little bit more today than normal, and that’s obviously a concern.”

The day also marks “triple witching”, where investors unwind positions in futures and options contracts before they expire which often leads to large unexpected moves in markets.

Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with technology, consumer discretionary and communication services the only gainers, up between 0.5% and 1.1%.

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“The bottom has been touched, and technology is down such a significant amount from its highs, it was bound to bring in people looking for opportunities,” said Rick Meckler at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Wall Street’s main indexes tracked their biggest weekly gain since November 2020 after a rally that was fueled by hopes for progress in the Russia-Ukraine peace talks and a widely expected interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday also forecast an aggressive plan for further hikes while trimming economic growth projections for the year.

At 11:43 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 119.47 points, or 0.35%, at 34,361.29, the S&P 500 was up 6.26 points, or 0.14%, at 4,417.93 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 126.45 points, or 0.93%, at 13,741.24.

Moderna Inc gained 4.9% after the drugmaker submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow for a second booster of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Shares of Boeing Co rose 0.7% on reports that the planemaker was edging towards a landmark order from Delta Air Lines for up to 100 of its 737 MAX 10 jets.

U.S. delivery firm FedEx Corp fell 5.0% as it posted lower-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.36-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 18 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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