January 2, 2019 / 6:31 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Bank, energy stocks lift Wall Street higher in choppy session

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* Indexes up: Dow 0.11 pct, S&P 0.19 pct, Nasdaq 0.52 pct

* Energy stocks mirror oil prices in erasing losses

* Tech stocks reverse course to move higher

* Beaten-down bank stocks get boost from Barclays

* Weak China, Euro zone factory data spark growth concerns (Updates to early afternoon, adds comments)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Jan 2 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged higher in a choppy session on Wednesday, as gains in energy and bank stocks helped offset a drop in the healthcare sector and worries about a global economic slowdown.

The S&P, Dow Industrials and Nasdaq all fell 1.5 percent or more early in the day, before recovering to flit between gains and losses, ensuring Wall Street started the new year with the same swings with which it closed last year.

U.S. stocks posted their biggest one-year percentage drop in a decade in 2018 over worries of a slowdown in growth, and the worry reared its head in the first trading day of the new year after weak economic data out of China and the Euro zone.

Data showed China's factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months in December, hit by the Sino-U.S. trade war, while the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the euro zone hit its lowest since February 2016.

"Despite the new year, there is a continuation of the same issues that have plagued 2018 and the recent manufacturing numbers from China and Europe just add to the tension," said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

Though U.S. data has been relatively strong, several economic indicators have not been released because of the partial U.S. government shutdown, now in its 12th day.

Oliver Pursche, chief market strategist at Bruderman Asset Management in New York, said while the void of positive data made investors cautious about taking on risk, sentiment was driving the market and that could change quickly.

"I wouldn't be entirely surprised if we ended up flat or even up at the end," Pursche said, referring to the S&P 500.

Healthcare, the best performing among the 11 S&P sectors last year, dropped 0.98 percent and was the biggest drag on the market.

On the other hand, the energy sector, the worst performer last year, climbed 2.44 percent after oil prices reversed course to trade higher by nearly 4 percent.

The heavy-weight technology index see-sawed though the session, dragging the market along. The index was last up 0.34 percent. It had fallen as much as 1.97 percent.

At 1:04 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 25.91 points, or 0.11 percent, at 23,353.37, the S&P 500 was up 4.71 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,511.56 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 34.28 points, or 0.52 percent, at 6,669.56.

The defensive real estate, utilities and consumer staples sectors were among the laggards, while a gain in financials helped lift the market.

Bank stocks, in particular, rose 1.62 percent, getting a boost from Barclays' prediction that U.S. large-cap bank stocks, which lagged in 2018, could outperform the S&P this year.

On the horizon is the closely watched U.S. manufacturing survey on Thursday and payrolls data on Friday.

Among stocks, Tesla Inc sank 6.8 percent after the electric car maker delivered fewer-than-expected Model 3 sedans in the fourth quarter and cut prices for all its vehicles in the United States in response to the loss of a green tax credit.

Netflix Inc fell 0.9 percent after brokerage Suntrust Robinson said the company could struggle to hit fourth-quarter subscriber targets.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.97-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.93-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded nine new highs and 55 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Medha Singh and April Joyner; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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