April 23, 2019 / 7:08 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500 nears record high after upbeat earnings

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* Dow member United Tech rises after upbeat results

* Twitter soars in heavy trading after Q1 revenue beats est

* Lockheed Martin jumps after raising 2019 profit forecast

* S&P 500 rises above record closing high, nears intraday record

* Indexes up: Dow 0.58 pct, S&P 500 0.85 pct, Nasdaq 1.23 pct (Updates to late afternoon, adds commentary, NEW YORK dateline, changes byline)

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index moved closer to its record high on Tuesday, as a clutch of better-than-expected earnings reports eased concerns about a slowdown, sparking a broad-based rally.

The benchmark breached its record closing high during the session and was just a few index points away from its intra-day record of 2,940.91 hit on Sept. 21. It has risen about 17 percent so far this year, with help from a dovish Federal Reserve and hopes of a U.S.-China trade resolution as well as an upbeat start to the first-quarter earnings season.

The Nasdaq also climbed above its record closing high during Tuesday's session.

"Part of what's pushing the S&P up is a general belief it will make a new high," said Rick Meckler, partner, Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey who also cited better than expected earnings reports.

"It's giving traders confidence. There's also a lot of optimism about big tech earnings such as Amazon.com coming out. That could be what pushes us over the top."

Amazon.com Inc, set to report results later this week, gained 2.2%, providing the biggest boost to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.

At 2:48 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 136.16 points, or 0.51%, to 26,647.21, the S&P 500 gained 26.69 points, or 0.92%, to 2,934.66 and the Nasdaq Composite added 109.64 points, or 1.37%, to 8,124.91.

Profits of S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 1.3% in the first quarter, in what analysts say could be the first earnings contraction since 2016. However, forecasts have largely improved since the start of April.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with a rebound in healthcare, which gained 2%, providing the biggest boost. The healthcare sector has recently been slammed with 6.7% drop in the last two weeks on U.S. policy concerns.

"People just realized (healthcare) got beaten so far down it might be worth taking a chance," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

The defensive consumer staples and utilities sectors were the weakest performers as investors favored riskier assets.

Twitter Inc shares soared 16%, hovering near a nine-month high, after the social media company posted better-than-expected quarterly revenue and a surprise rise in monthly active users.

Another big gainer was Hasbro Inc, which rose 14.9% after the toymaker reported a surprise quarterly profit.

Among other earnings, Coca-Cola Co rose 1.2% after its quarterly sales beat estimates, helped in part by strong demand for Coke Zero.

Lockheed Martin Corp jumped 5.8% after it reported upbeat quarterly results and lifted its full-year profit forecast on strong demand for its missiles and fighter jets.

United Technologies Corp rose 2% after it raised its full-year profit forecast.

Procter & Gamble Co fell 3% and was the biggest drag on the market after reporting a decline in its third-quarter operating margin.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.92-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.89-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 45 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 78 new highs and 39 new lows. (Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Shounak Dasgupta)

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