Wall Street opens higher as tech, financial stocks rise

Wall Street opened higher on Friday, boosted by technology and financial stocks.Semiconductor stocks .SOX were trading higher after Applied Materials (AMAT.O), seen as an industry bellwether, forecast a higher-than-expected third-quarter profit on the back of strong demand for chips. The company's stock rose 12.8 percent. The S&P financial sector index .SPSY rose 1.02 percent as a flurry of comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve officials, suggested a possibility of an interest rate hike as early as June. New York Fed President William Dudley said on Thursday the U.S. economy was strong enough to warrant a rate hike in June or July."We got rattled earlier this week by shifting Fed perception," said Scott Brown, Chief Economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida. "Now we're back to looking at two rates increases this year, maybe even three." The S&P 500 has fallen 4.4 percent since it hit a record high on May 21 last year. The benchmark index has given up all its gains for the year due to underwhelming corporate earnings, mixed economic data and uncertainty regarding the trajectory of rate hikes. At 9:48 a.m. ET (1348 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 71.06 points, or 0.41 percent, at 17,506.46, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 10.03 points, or 0.49 percent, at 2,050.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 35.74 points, or 0.76 percent, at 4,748.28.Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the information technology index's .SPLRCT 1.16 percent rise leading the advancers. Oil prices were marginally lower as investors cashed in recent gains and focus shifted again to global oversupply.Existing home sales in the United States rose better-than-expected in April, marking the second straight month of increase. InterOil (IOC.N) jumped 31 percent to $41.36 after Oil Search (OSH.AX) agreed to buy the company for $2.2 billion. AthenaHealth (ATHN.O) fell 6.1 percent to $121.55 after the company appointed a new chief financial officer.Campbell Soup (CPB.N) fell 4 percent to $61.41 after the company reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales.Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,037 to 659. On the Nasdaq, 1,718 issues rose and 561 fell.The S&P 500 index showed seven new 52-week highs and one new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded eight new highs and 12 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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Trump draws even with Clinton in national White House poll

WASHINGTON Republican Donald Trump pulled even with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday, in a dramatic early sign that the Nov. 8 presidential election might be more hotly contested than first thought.While much can change in the six months until the election,the results of the online survey are a red flag for the Clinton campaign that the billionaire's unorthodox bid for the White House cannot be brushed aside.Trump's numbers surged after he effectively won the Republican nomination last week by knocking out his two remaining rivals, according to the poll.The national survey found 41 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton and 40 percent backing Trump, with 19 percent undecided. The survey of 1,289 people was conducted over five days and has a credibility interval of 3 percentage points."Very happy to see these numbers," Trump said in a written comment to Reuters. "Good direction." A spokesman for Clinton's campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the poll.A Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted in the five days to May 4 had the former secretary of state at 48 percent and the New York magnate at 35 percent. Republican strategist Dave Carney said the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the vulnerability of Clinton, who is still battling U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. “She has been in the public eye for decades, served in high office, and now she’s in a dead heat with Trump, in a race that everyone thought she would win easily,” said Carney, who has been critical of Trump. “Everyone thought it would be a romp.” REPUBLICAN RELUCTANCE Trump has his own problems, though. He is struggling to bring some senior Republicans behind his campaign after primary election battles in which his fiery rhetoric rankled party elites. Several Republican leaders -- including House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan -- are withholding their support. "After a tough primary, that's going to take some effort," Ryan said about unifying the party. "We are committed to putting that effort in." The former reality TV star will face pressure to tone down his rhetoric and clarify his policy positions when he visits Republican lawmakers, including Ryan, on Thursday.Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized Trump on Wednesday for not releasing his tax returns, saying the only explanation was that the documents contained a "bombshell."Trump has said that he will make public his tax returns onthe completion of an audit. Clinton and Trump both poll well with voters of their respective parties, but independent voters continue to express uncertainty about who they will support, with 38 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they are unsure or would vote for someone else.With the party's primary season winding down, the two likely nominees have turned their attention to attacking each other, both on policy and personality. Clinton took aim at Trump's tax reform plan at a rally in New Jersey on Wednesday. With a typical American family earning $54,000 per year, Clinton said, "It would take that family 24 years of work to earn what Donald Trump’s tax plan will hand out to people like him in just one year. That is no way to create good job with rising incomes for the vast majority of Americans, is it?"Trump has taunted Clinton in recent days for failing to "close the deal" against Sanders. University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said Trump - who has promised to force Mexico to pay for a border wall to halt illegal immigration and called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country - could also face a wall of opposition among minority voters."This is an election that will be determined as much by the demographic composition of the American electorate as anything else - and that didn’t change in a week," he said. Clinton's loss in the Democratic primary election in West Virginia on Tuesday also signaled possible trouble for her in industrial states in November, underscoring how she still needs to court working-class voters in the Rust Belt.Roughly six in 10 voters in West Virginia, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in country, said they were very worried about the direction of the U.S. economy in the next few years, according to a preliminary ABC News exit poll. The same proportion cited the economy and jobs as the most important issue in the election. (Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Megan Cassella, Emily Stephenson Timothy Ahmann and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell)

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Asian stocks at two-month lows as oil weighs; dollar up

HONG KONG Asian stocks slipped to two-month lows on Monday as weak oil prices weighed on sentiment while the dollar got a lift against its peers as the differences in policy directions between the world's top central banks became starker.MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was down 0.2 percent, its lowest since Mar. 11. Hong Kong and Chinese stocks led regional markets lower.European stocks were expected to open slightly higher with spreadbetters picking Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE to open up 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX .GDAXI 0.5 percent and France's CAC 40 .FCHI 0.3 percent. China's April consumer inflation and producer price data painted a mixed picture of deflationary pressures in the world's second largest economy.Expectations of further monetary policy easing had already been dented by strong March China data, but economists are divided over whether that was just a blip or a more sustainable trend."I think monetary policy will be kept steady with structural easing - targeted easing for some sectors," said Nie Wen, economist at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai. Cuts in reserve requirement ratios (RRR) are likely although the People's Bank of China has been relying on other tools such as medium-term funds to inject liquidity, he said.The moderate price data came after the official People's Daily quoted an "authoritative person" on Monday saying China may suffer from a financial crisis and economic recession if the government relies on too much stimulus. Shen Weizheng, fund manager at Shanghai-based Ivy Capital, said that he was now much less bullish on stocks, interpreting the article as a sign that Beijing will rein in credit expansion after the first quarter's lending surge.Noting the yen's fresh weakness, investors flocked to Japanese stocks .N225, pushing them up 1.5 percent though the likelihood of weak first-quarter earnings kept broader sentiment in check."It will probably take a few months to price the bad news in, so the market is likely to stay weak for a while," said Masashi Oda, general manager at strategic investment department at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management.In the Philippines, the main index .PSI initially fell as tough-talking mayor Rodrigo Duterte looks almost certain to become the country's next president, but then reversed to be up 0.5 percent. Wall Street put in a mixed performance overnight, undercut by tumbling oil prices amid expectations that U.S. crude inventories would again build to record highs.In the currency markets, the dollar extended gains on Tuesday, pushing above 108.74 against the yen JPY= and 1.137 against the euro EUR= despite a broad-based pullback in U.S. Treasury yields.With U.S. officials suggesting markets are under-pricing rate hikes and Tokyo warning it was prepared to step in to weaken the yen, traders are growing more bullish on the dollar. "Don't underestimate the power of short covering," Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management, said in a note to clients. While the dollar is "still a sell on rallies" against the yen, Lien said the currency could soar to 110 yen quickly if the 20-day simple moving average at 108.83 were broken. "When a currency... squeezes higher quickly, causing investors to panic and abandon their positions, the rally could be sharp and aggressive particularly when positions are skewed so heavily in the opposite direction," she said.In the wake of the yen's surge, Finance Minister Taro Aso on Monday said Tokyo is ready to intervene to weaken the currency if moves are volatile enough to hurt the country's trade and economy. Aso reiterated the message on Tuesday.U.S. crude oil CLc1 was down 0.3 percent in early Asian trade at $43.31 a barrel, after shedding 2.8 percent on Monday. Brent crude LCOc1 dropped 3.8 percent overnight to settle at $43.63 before edging higher.The dollar's gains pushed gold prices lower with the precious metal XAU= falling to a 1-1/2 week low on Tuesday. Prices have flatlined after rallying in the last week of April. (Additional reporting by Lisa Twaronite in TOKYO and China economics team; Editing by Richard Borsuk & Shri Navaratnam)

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Your Money: Money-smart gifts for college grads

NEW YORK For college graduates entering a challenging job market, some of whom are carrying tremendous student loan debt, any gift to help them better manage their money is both practical and welcome.The following are three ways to help recent graduates find their financial footing in the real world:1. Investing for the long haulWhen William Bauer, managing director of Royce, a New Jersey leather goods company, graduated from McGill University in 2014 and HEC Paris in 2015, his mother gave him 100 shares of Johnson & Johnson stock and 100 shares of Qualcomm."It's nice to have money to fall back on for the inevitable rainy day," says Bauer, who liked the gift idea so much that he recently gave his brother stock upon college graduation.Jake Rheude's parents essentially gave him a forced savings plan. Rheude studied marketing at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, driving a 2001 Audi A4 his parents loaned him. He paid the insurance on it to them every month.When Rheude graduated, his parents gave him access to a bank account where his monthly payments of $96 had been deposited and accumulating in a mutual fund account. "Their gift to me was over $5,000, money that would have likely been spent on frivolous expenses had I not been required to make the payments," says Rheude, now director of business development and marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, in Knoxville. "It taught me an immense amount about the realities of living expenses, but also about the power of saving a relatively small amount - although some months it seemed like a huge amount - consistently, over the course of several years," he said. Cash gifts are another conduit to fiscal responsibility. For financial writer Scott Bowen, a gift of $1,000 from his father as he graduated from an MFA program was directed into a mutual fund account."That wasn't much money, but it got me focused on two essential habits: putting your own money away for the future and not thinking you can rely on a 401(k) or Social Security," Bowen says, adding that "you have to pay attention to the things that you invest in - you actually have to understand some things about the fund itself and its investment direction."2. Advice and guidance"On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance," by personal finance experts Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, tackles money basics like credit card debt and retirement planning. The lessons shared in the book are even more powerful when paired with frank, personal advice, Thakor says. "Take the young person out to a restaurant of their choosing and share with them your best and worst financial decisions," advises Thakor, who is director of wealth strategies for women at The BAM Alliance. "Answer their questions about money."Another book recommended by personal finance experts was written 90 years ago, but is still relevant today.Daniel L. Grote, a certified financial planner in Denver, received "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clason from his Uncle Jim - "My mentor and the most financially successful person I know," notes Grote."It is an excellent, quick read" for anyone who wants to know how acquire solid personal finance skills, says Grote, who has since given the book as a gift many times.Booking a session with a financial planner or adviser is another smart move. "When the advice comes from someone other than a parent, it tends to sink in more," says consumer credit expert and author Beverly Blair Harzog. Ask the planner to provide basic money advice, such as budgeting, avoiding debt and the importance of a healthy credit score.3. Launch a careerAshley Souza, associate director of relationship development for Centerpoint Advisors, LLC in Needham, Massachusetts, surprised and delighted her newly graduated cousin by giving her a boot camp with a career strategist. She found it priceless – receiving a professional resume, headshot, LinkedIn profile, mock interviews with professional contacts, and tips covering everything regarding meeting etiquette and wardrobe must-haves.Souza also gave her cousin a $100 gift card to Banana Republic for some updated work clothes."The coaching really helped her gain confidence, and the interviewers were impressed with her updated resume when she arrived, as well as her poise," Souza says. (Editing by Lauren Young and G Crosse)

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Trump, in reversal, says wealthy Americans should pay more taxes

WASHINGTON U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday he is open to raising taxes on wealthy Americans, backing off his prior proposal to reduce taxes on all Americans."I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more," Trump told ABC's "This Week."Trump, who effectively sealed the Republican presidential nomination last week after the departure from the race of his two remaining rivals, has pledged to unify the party behind him.But prominent Republicans remain deeply divided over the New York billionaire's candidacy. Republicans such as Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, have distanced themselves from Trump over his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.Trump's fiercely anti-trade rhetoric is also at odds with the views of Ryan and many other pro-business Republicans. Underscoring the party divisions, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a Trump supporter, vowed on Sunday to work to defeat Ryan, the House speaker, in his Aug. 9 Wisconsin primary race against a conservative businessman.Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" program, Palin criticized Ryan for saying he was not yet ready to endorse Trump."Paul Ryan and his ilk, their problem is that they become so disconnected from the people they are elected to represent as evidenced by Paul Ryan's refusal to support the GOP front runner that we just said, 'He's our man.'" Ryan said last week that conservatives wanted to know if Trump shared their values. He said he hoped to eventually support Trump but added, "I'm just not there right now."Trump's tax proposal, released last September, included broad tax breaks for businesses and households. He proposed reducing the highest income-tax rate to 25 percent from the current 39.6 percent rate. Pressed on the contradiction between his latest comments on taxes and the September tax plan, Trump said that he expected his original proposal was a "a concept" and he expected that it would be changed following negotiations with Congress."By the time it gets negotiated, it's going to be a different plan," Trump told ABC. He emphasized in interviews with both ABC and in a separate interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that his priorities were lowering taxes on the middle class and businesses."The middle class has to be protected," Trump told NBC. "The rich is probably going to end up paying more." (Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Caren Bohan and Digby Lidstone)

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