July 20, 2018 / 4:01 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St rises as Microsoft gains, lifts tech stocks

* Microsoft hits record high on strong results

* Trump threatens tariff on $500 bln worth of Chinese goods

* GE dips on cut in cash target forecast

* Skechers dips, VF Corp gains after qtrly results

* Indexes up: Dow 0.20 pct, S&P 0.15 pct, Nasdaq 0.39 pct (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)

By Amy Caren Daniel

July 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday as solid results from Microsoft lifted technology stocks and eased rising trade tensions after President Donald Trump said he was ready to impose levies on $500 billion worth of goods from China.

Microsoft rose as much as 3.6 percent to a record high of $108.20 and boosted all three of the Wall Street's main indexes.

Trump's comments on tariffs, which followed after the United States and China imposed levies on $34 billion worth of each other's goods this month, worried investors already grappling with the impact of a strengthening dollar on corporate results.

"Trade remains a major factor overall," said Michael Dowdall, investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago. "But people are tracking strong economic data and earnings season, where expectations are pretty high."

The tariff-sensitive industrial sector dipped 0.17 percent, led by losses in GE, which fell 4.8 percent after the company cut its annual cash target.

The industrial conglomerate's CEO John Flannery estimates new tariffs on its imports from China could raise its overall costs by $300 million to $400 million.

Shares of the world's largest construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar fell 1 percent and 3M slipped 0.5 percent. Both the companies are due to report quarterly results over the next two weeks.

The information technology sector rose 0.6 percent, the most among the 11 main index S&P sectors.

Microsoft's blockbuster results powered gains in other technology stocks as well. Shares of Facebook, Apple and Google-parent Alphabet rose between 0.3 percent and 1.2 percent.

As the second-quarter reporting period gains momentum, analysts forecast for profit at S&P 500 companies have risen to 22 percent, compared with the 20.7 percent gain seen on July 1, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Of the 87 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far, 83.9 percent have topped profit expectations, compared with a 75 percent beat rate over the past four quarters.

At 11:37 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 49.01 points, or 0.20 percent, at 25,113.51, the S&P 500 was up 4.17 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,808.66 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 30.67 points, or 0.39 percent, at 7,855.97.

Eight of the 11 main S&P sectors were trading lower. The defensive utilities sector fell 0.89 percent and led the losses.

Skechers USA plunged 23.6 percent after the shoemaker posted disappointing quarterly results and forecast.

On the other hand, VF Corp rose 4 percent after the Vans sneaker maker reported robust quarterly results and raised its forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.09-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 20 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 88 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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