April 16, 2018 / 5:45 PM / 7 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St higher as Syria fears ease, earnings in focus

* Merck rises on positive Keytruda drug data

* JB Hunt jumps after results

* Netflix down ahead of earnings

* Indexes up: Dow 1.2 pct, S&P 0.98 pct, Nasdaq 0.85 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar

April 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday, with technology and healthcare shares leading the way as investors appeared less concerned about possible retaliation for the U.S.-led missile attack in Syria.

The weekend's air strikes marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia, which is facing further economic sanctions over its role in the conflict.

The gains on Wall Street were broad-based as investors shifted their focus to the corporate earnings season, which is expected to get a big boost from the U.S. tax reforms.

S&P 500 companies are expected to report an 18.6 percent jump in first-quarter profit on average, the biggest rise in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"People are optimistic in the earnings season ... but there are a lot of forces working in the market - technicals, earnings and geopolitics, which is the biggest wild card," said J.J. Feldman, portfolio manager at Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile Advisors.

At 12:58 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 282.95 points, or 1.16 percent, at 24,643.09, the S&P 500 was up 26.01 points, or 0.98 percent, at 2,682.31 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 60.76 points, or 0.85 percent, at 7,167.41.

Merck rose 2.5 percent after the company presented positive data on its cancer drug Keytruda, driving a 0.7 percent gain in the healthcare index.

Technology stocks gained 0.9 percent.

"Tech and healthcare may be two sectors trading below their 20 year PEs, meaning there is still value in those sectors," Feldman said.

Shares of optical components makers, including those of Acacia Communications and Oclaro, took a beating after Reuters reported that the U.S. government was banning American companies from selling components to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp .

JB Hunt Transport Services jumped 5.5 percent after the trucking company's profit topped estimates.

Bank of America posted marginal gains after reporting a better-than-expected increase in quarterly profit.

Netflix fell more than 1 percent. The company is expected to reports results after the closing bell on Monday.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a 2.79-to-1 ratio and on the Nasdaq, a 1.81-to-1 ratio favored advancers. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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