Business chiefs who met White House officials on Thursday hinted that a deal could come this week.
It would avert another round of tariffs that the US was due to impose on China on Sunday.
President Donald Trump has been meeting his trade advisers, and tweeted earlier that the US and China were "very" close to a deal.
"They want it and so do we!" he wrote.
The US has reportedly offered to halve tariff rates on about $350bn worth of Chinese goods, some of which had climbed as high as 25%. In exchange, China would commit to boost its purchases of US agricultural products.
However, the so-called Phase One deal is not expected to address many of the more difficult issues that triggered the fight, like China's subsidies for certain industries.
"It's a good starting point," Chamber of Commerce head of international affairs Myron Brilliant told broadcaster CNBC after the White House meeting.
The hints of progress sent the main US stock indexes up about 1%.
A deal would deliver a victory to Mr Trump, who is under political pressure, with debate on his impeachment underway in the US Congress.
As described, the potential agreement falls short of what the US initially said were its goals, said Jennifer Hillman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former trade official.
"This should NOT be described as a trade agreement," she wrote on Twitter.
"It is a purchase and sale agreement that does virtually nothing to address substantive concerns of US (+rest of the world) with China's trade practices."