July 24, 2018 / 7:35 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P, Dow rise as Alphabet results boost earnings optimism

* S&P hits highest level since Feb. 1

* Agriculture companies gain on Trump relief plan for farmers

* Whirlpool shares tumble on weak results and forecast

* Dow up 0.7 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq down 0.1 pct (Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline, adds NEW YORK to dateline)

By April Joyner

NEW YORK, July 24 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Dow Industrials rose on Tuesday as Alphabet's blowout results bolstered expectations of a robust earnings season, though a decline in the Nasdaq pointed to lingering concerns over trade tensions.

Earlier in the session, the benchmark S&P 500 index touched its highest level since Feb. 1.

Alphabet Inc shares jumped to a record high of $1,275.00 after the online search company's quarterly results surpassed Wall Street estimates. The shares were last up 3.7 percent at $1,256.25.

Google's parent company was the biggest boost to the S&P 500. Others in the so-called FANG group of momentum stocks rose as well. Shares of Facebook Inc and Amazon Inc were up 1.4 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Both companies report earnings later this week.

"Today, it's an earnings story, pure and simple," said Jim Awad, senior managing director at Hartland & Co in New York. "It's been a very good second quarter."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 162.36 points, or 0.65 percent, to 25,206.65, while the S&P 500 gained 9.65 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,816.63.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.70 points, or 0.09 percent, to 7,835.17. It reversed course after having hit a record high earlier in the session.

So far in 2018, the Nasdaq has climbed more than 13 percent, more than twice the year-to-date percentage gain of the S&P 500. Some investors said the Nasdaq's reversal indicated some profit-taking driven by lingering concerns over trade issues. Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump extolled tariffs in a post on Twitter.

"It leads me to believe that underneath it all, investors are worried about the tariff situation and what the implications are going to be for corporate profits in the third quarter," Awad said. "If you're looking to raise cash because you're uncertain, you take it where you have the biggest profits."

Agriculture-related stocks gained on news that the Trump administration plans to announce aid for U.S. farmers to help protect them from potential impacts related to trade spats between the United States and its trade partners.

Deere & Co shares rose 2.8 percent, while shares of Caterpillar Inc advanced 1.2 percent. AGCO Corp shares edged up 0.6 percent.

Harley-Davidson Inc climbed 6.1 percent after its profit beat estimates and the company forecast a lower-than-expected hit to margins from tariffs.

Whirlpool Corp tumbled 13.8 percent to a more than two-year low after reporting weak quarterly results and cutting its full-year forecasts.

Shares of Biogen Inc rose 3.6 percent and Eli Lilly and Co shares rose 4.6 percent after the companies reported strong results. Biogen shares touched their highest level in three years, while Lilly shares jumped to their highest level since 2000.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.08-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.01-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 32 new 52-week highs and four new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 115 new highs and 58 new lows. (Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Susan Thomas)

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