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U.S. stocks turned higher Thursday afternoon after The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials are considering reducing the new tariffs on Chinese imports as part of trade negotiations between the two companies. The report was later denied by U.S. Treasury Department officials.

The S&P 500 index rose 16 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2,632 as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 127 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 24,335 points to 24,214. It was nearly flat before The Journal report came out, then spiked 267 points shortly afterward. The Nasdaq composite gained 39 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 7,074. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks climbed 10 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,465.

The Journal, quoting people familiar with the internal deliberations, reported that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan. 30.

The Journal said Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has resisted the idea, and the proposal had not yet been introduced to President Donald Trump.

A Treasury spokesman later denied the report, telling the Wall Street Journal: “Neither Secretary Mnuchin nor Ambassador Lighthizer have made any recommendations to anyone with respect to tariffs or other parts of the negotiation with China.”

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for the latest round of trade talks aimed at resolving a bitter trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

The Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on US$200-billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 per cent on March 2.

It’s just the latest conflicting detail from the trade dispute. Earlier in the day, China’s government said the top trade envoys from both countries will meet in Washington at the end of this month, a possible sign of progress in negotiations. But late Wednesday, The Journal said U.S. prosecutors might bring criminal charges against Chinese technology giant Huawei over possible theft of trade secrets.

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