Dow gains 7.2% in January, best performance in 30 years

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NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished a banner month on a mostly positive note Thursday (Jan 31), with the Dow notching its best January in 30 years, reversing the bruising finale to 2018.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the month at 24,999.67, a 0.1 per cent dip for the session, but up 7.2 percent for all of January.

The broad-based S&P 500 closed at 2,704.10, up 0.9 per cent for the session and 7.9 per cent for the month.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite performed even better, closing the month at 7,281.74, up 1.4 per cent for the session and 9.7 per cent for the month.

The highlights of the session included banner results from Facebook that lifted the social media giant 10.8 per cent.

Stocks also picked up momentum late in the session when President Donald Trump hailed "tremendous" progress in US-China trade negotiations held over the last two days in Washington.

In a letter from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Trump that was read out by the Chinese delegation, Xi said relations were at a "critical" stage and that he hoped "our two sides will continue to work with mutual respect."

Worries about a full-throttle US-China trade war have pressured stocks for weeks, including in last month, which was the worst December since 1931.

The December rout was also prompted by worries about slowing global growth and fears the Federal Reserve would lift interest rates too aggressively.

While slowing global growth remains a major concern for investors, worries about the Fed have receded considerably since the calendar flipped to a new year.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell has backed off hawkish commentary from late last year, emphasising at a Fed press conference on Wednesday that the central bank would be "patient" on rate hikes, a stance that has been seen as an almost complete reversal.

Big gainers in Thursday's session included struggling conglomerate General Electric, which surged 11.7 per cent after recently-installed chief executive Lawrence Culp reported progress on the company's turnaround.

But large banks mostly fell in the wake of Wednesday's dovish Fed announcement, with JPMorgan Chase shedding 0.9 per cent and Bank of America falling 2.1 per cent.

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