May 6, 2020 / 5:32 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500, Nasdaq up as tech stocks rise; lockdown easing hopes persist

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* CVS rises as profit beats on coronavirus-led stockpiling

* GM jumps on Q1 profit beat, plans N. American restart

* Activision Blizzard jumps after raising 2020 forecast

* Dow flat, S&P 500 up 0.18%, Nasdaq up 1.21% (Adds comments, updates to early afternoon)

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Medha Singh

May 6 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose on Wednesday on hopes of a pickup in business activity as states eased coronavirus-induced curbs, with investors also looking past a stunning 20 million plunge in U.S. private payrolls last month.

Four of the 11 major S&P sectors were trading higher, with the technology index leading gains, as traders bought into stocks perceived to be resilient at a time when billions of people globally are still indoors.

"The leadership has come from stocks that benefit from stay-at-home economy," said Jack Janasiewicz, portfolio strategist at Natixis Investment Managers. "For the most part people are hedging their bets, increasing their exposure to companies such as Amazon and Microsoft."

The blue-chip Dow Jones index came under pressure from declines in oil giant Chevron Corp as crude prices fell. The S&P 500 energy sub-index dropped 1.3%.

U.S. stock indexes have rebounded sharply with a rally in April sparked by unprecedented stimulus and signs that the virus outbreak was peaking.

However, with macroeconomic data still foreshadowing a severe global recession, analysts have warned of another selloff, particularly if reopening of economies sparks another wave of infections.

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. private employers laid off a record 20.2 million workers in April, setting up the overall labor market for historic job losses last month.

The Labor Department's more comprehensive report is due Friday, while a reading of initial jobless claims is set to be released on Thursday.

"Investors have concluded that because of the very weak ADP survey for April they anticipate the worst for Friday's nonfarm payroll report," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

Several market experts said technicals were at play and if the S&P 500 falls below the day's low of 2,856, it could signal further losses.

"Below 2,856 the technical bias is bearish. It's an important line in the technical sand. If that can be defended by the bulls there's a greater likelihood the market will work its way higher," Stovall said.

At 12:58 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 10.96 points, or 0.05%, at 23,894.05, the S&P 500 was up 5.03 points, or 0.18%, at 2,873.47 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 106.43 points, or 1.21%, at 8,915.55.

The S&P financials index was also among the biggest decliners as the Treasury Department said it would launch a long-planned 20-year bond to meet record government borrowing needs amid the outbreak.

In company news, General Motors Co jumped 4.2% after the automaker topped first-quarter profit expectations and outlined plans for a May 18 restart of most of its North American plants.

CVS Health Corp gained 1% after the company posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit, as its pharmacy benefits management business and drugstores benefited from customers stockpiling medicines due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Activision Blizzard Inc rose 5.7% after raising its revenue forecast on higher demand for video games such as its "Call of Duty" during the lockdowns.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.69-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.08-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded six new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 14 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Shounak Dasgupta)

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