US stocks were modestly higher on Thursday, propped up by financials, but caution reigned in the build-up to US-China trade talks at the G20 summit this weekend.
The two sides were laying out an agreement that would help avert the next round of tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports, the South China Morning Post reported, citing sources.
However, a Wall Street Journal report that Chinese President Xi Jinping planned to present President Donald Trump with a set of terms Washington should meet before Beijing is ready to settle their trade dispute tempered optimism.
"I think expectations for a deal are still fairly low. All markets want to see now is the trade deal is not worsening," said Rick Meckler, partner, Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.
"Stock prices are fairly high by most measures and for those looking to invest more, the lack of clarity keeps them from making that commitment."
The benchmark S&P 500 index briefly hit a session low after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there were no preconditions set ahead of any trade talks with China.
Financials rose 0.91%, with big lenders leading the charge ahead of results of the second part of the Federal Reserve's annual stress test for banks.
Semiconductor companies, which have a sizable revenue exposure to China, traded higher, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor index up 1.32%. The S&P technology sector was up 0.25%.
Boeing Co fell 1.9%, pressuring the blue-chip Dow Jones index, after Reuters reported that the US Federal Aviation Administration identified a new flaw in the planemaker's grounded 737 MAX jets.
At 12:57 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 31.62 points, or 0.12%, at 26,568.44 and the S&P 500 was up 12.24 points, or 0.42%, at 2,926.02.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 51.34 points, or 0.65%, at 7,961.31.
The bellwether S&P 500 has recouped most of its losses in May and is on pace to end June with a 6% gain, on hopes that the Fed would cut interest rates to counter slowing growth.
Among other stocks, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc gained 5%, after the drugstore chain beat analysts' expectations for quarterly profit.
Ford Motor Co rose 2.78% after the carmaker said it will have cut 12,000 jobs in Europe by the end of next year to try to return the business to profit.
Conagra Brands Inc tumbled 12%, the most among S&P 500 companies, after the packaged food company's quarterly sales and profit fell short of analysts' estimates.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.34-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.68-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.The S&P index recorded six new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 22 new highs and 38 new lows.