May 11, 2020 / 6:14 PM / 15 days ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500 gains as investors look beyond pandemic to recovery

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* Marriott drops as profit misses lowered estimates

* Cardinal Heath surges as pandemic drives sales

* Under Armour slumps on warning sales could halve

* Indexes: Dow off 0.09%, S&P up 0.29%, Nasdaq climbs 1.04% (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline, byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, May 11 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 inched higher on Monday as investors balanced caution over new spikes in coronavirus infections with expectations that an economy crippled by mandated shutdowns will soon be re-opened for business.

While the Dow was nominally lower, technology shares put the Nasdaq on course for its sixth consecutive advance. The tech-heavy index is now up about 3% year-to-date.

All three major U.S. indexes remain within 20% of all-time highs reached in February, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq within 10% of its closing record.

Indeed, despite bleak recent economic data, including Friday's 20.2 million drop in U.S. payrolls, Wall Street has gained in recent weeks as investors look beyond pandemic to recovery.

"I don't know who would be selling going into the reopening of the economy, saying I'm going to take my ball and go home now," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist, senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. "A lot of professional investors are fearful of missing out and that has kept them in the market begrudgingly."

But a surge of new coronavirus infections in Germany and South Korea suggested early efforts to lift restrictions could be premature, even as businesses around the world, shuttered by social distancing restrictions, begin re-opening their doors.

"If the number of cases really spike in places that have opened up, it raises concerns of a potential second shutdown," Pavlik added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.79 points, or 0.09%, to 24,309.53, the S&P 500 gained 8.54 points, or 0.29%, to 2,938.34 and the Nasdaq Composite added 94.59 points, or 1.04%, to 9,215.91.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, 5 were in the black, with healthcare enjoying the largest percentage gain.

First-quarter earnings season is nearing the final stretch, with 440 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 67.5% have beaten Wall Street estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

In aggregate, S&P 500 earnings are seen to have dropped by 12.1% in the first quarter, compared with a year ago.

Drug distributor Cardinal Health Inc jumped 6.7% as the pandemic boosted third-quarter sales.

Chesapeake Energy Corp slid 12.7% after it said bankruptcy is among the options under consideration as the shale driller copes with plummeting oil and gas prices.

Marriott missed first-quarter profit margins by a wide margin as bookings plunged. The hotel operator's shares were down 4.5%.

Shares of Under Armour Inc plunged 10.0% after the athletic wear company forecast a 50% to 60% drop in the second quarter as many of its stores remain shuttered.

Packaged food company General Mills said it expects to surpass its fiscal 2020 sales expectations as consumers stock their pantries amid lockdowns, sending its stock up 2.3%.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.59-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.06-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 91 new highs and 10 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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