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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street advanced on Wednesday while European shares and commodities fell as investors balanced strong U.S. economic data and policy comments with fears about China's slowing economy.
The benchmark S&P 500 was up 0.7 percent in afternoon trading, off its earlier highs, helped by stronger-than-expected data on durable goods orders and comments that appeared to make a September interest rate hike less likely.
New York Fed President William Dudley said a rate hike next month seems less appropriate given the threat posed to the U.S. economy by recent global market turmoil.
Most U.S. Treasuries prices turned positive, erasing earlier losses, after Dudley's rate hike comments.
Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index of major companies .FTEU3 fell 1.9 percent in a choppy trading day. China's key share indexes also ended down after attempts to move higher were slapped back by waves of selling several times, reflecting hopes for more government and central bank support.
The Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC ended down 1.3 percent, its fifth straight day in the red as Beijing also dished out another round of trading bans.
"Everybody's just on guard and aware of the potential for greater volatility than we've seen in quite a while. We've seen investors dip their toes and buy high-quality names they like that they can get cheaper," said Brian Fenske, head of sales trading at ITG in New York. He added, "You could call me two hours from now and we could be down."
At 12:35 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 122.43 points, or 0.78 percent, to 15,788.87, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 13.14 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,880.75 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 29.44 points, or 0.65 percent, to 4,535.92.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index .VIX was still elevated at 35.5, indicating significant uncertainty, though the "fear index" was well below Monday's 6-1/2 year peak of 53.3.
The dollar index .DXY, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, pared its gains after the Dudley comments but was up 0.3 percent.
Despite China's struggles, Asia markets had some bright spots. Japan's Nikkei .N225 saw a 3.2 percent jump and Korea's KOSPI .KS11 showed its biggest jump in two years with a 2.6 percent increase.
Oil prices were hurt by a bigger-than-expected increase in U.S. gasoline stocks, compounding negative sentiment from worldwide equities that pushed fuel prices to 6-1/2-year lows.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 were last down 0.3 percent at $43.07 per barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 was down 0.9 percent at $38.97.
Copper, often considered a proxy for Chinese and global economic activity, was down 3.1 percent tumble while prices of gold XAU=, traditionally a safe-haven asset, were off 1.4 percent.
Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London, Saikat Chatterjee in Hong Kong; Editing by Giles Elgood and Nick Zieminski