January 6, 2020 / 6:32 PM / 13 days ago

US STOCKS-Alphabet, Amazon keep S&P afloat as Middle East tensions persist

(Updates to early afternoon)

* Energy stocks rise as Brent crude tops $70/barrel

* Alphabet jumps on bullish brokerage recommendation

* Indexes: Dow off 0.10%, S&P up 0.07%, Nasdaq gains 0.24% (For a live blog on the U.S. stock market, click or type LIVE/ in a news window)

By Sruthi Shankar

Jan 6 (Reuters) - Gains for internet giants Amazon and Alphabet helped Wall Street's S&P 500 index steady following early losses on Monday sparked by rising tensions in the Middle East.

After opening about half a percent lower, the benchmark index was trading nearly flat by afternoon trading, helped by high-growth names such as Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc , Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc.

Alphabet rose 2.2% after Pivotal Research upgraded the stock to "buy", while Salesforce.com Inc gained 3.1% after RBC named the business software provider as its "top pick".

After ending 2019 on a strong note, Wall Street's main indexes came off record highs as Friday's U.S. airstrike in Baghdad raised the threat of a new conflagration in the Middle East.

"The best way to describe it (Monday's market move) would be tentative, because the markets are down very modestly given the geopolitical turmoil," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

"Historically these type of things don't cause long-term impact on the market, but it depends on how severe it gets and how long it lasts."

At 1:13 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 28.81 points, or 0.10%, at 28,606.07, the S&P 500 was up 2.26 points, or 0.07%, at 3,237.11 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 21.24 points, or 0.24%, at 9,042.01.

Investors sold some of 2019's star performers including chipmakers. The Philadelphia semiconductor index, which surged about 60% last year, was down 1.2%.

Big lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Morgan Stanley, were down between 0.1% and 0.5%, as U.S. Treasury yields fell.

Boeing Co fell 0.4%. A Wall Street Journal report said the planemaker was considering plans to raise more debt to bolster its finances after the grounding of its 737 MAX jet.

The energy index rose 0.4% as Brent crude futures topped $70 per barrel after Trump threatened sanctions on Iraq if U.S. troops were forced to withdraw from the country.

The communication services index was the top gainer among the major S&P subsectors, up 0.9%, lifted by Alphabet.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.09-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 16 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 54 new highs and 22 new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)

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