By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly broke above the 23,000-point mark for the first time on Tuesday, driven by strong earnings from UnitedHealth and Johnson & Johnson, but finished the session just below that milestone.
The blue-chip index, which surpassed similar 1,000-point marks three times previously this year, has been steadily inching higher and is up 2.6 percent so far this month, putting it on track for a seventh straight monthly advance.
The Dow may in the near term have a difficult time sustaining a move above 23,000, said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.
"My view is it may pull back before staying above" that level. "It may take several days or a couple of weeks," he said.
"Right now, you're contending with earnings season and the fact that the market has run up leading up into the earnings season," Pavlik said.
Recent strong economic data and renewed hope that President Donald Trump may be able to make progress on tax reform also have helped lift stocks in recent weeks.
Shares of the largest U.S. health insurer UnitedHealth (UNH.N) touched a life intraday high and closed up 5.5 percent after the company reported a stronger-than-expected profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), up 3.4 percent, also posted better-than-expected results and raised its forecast, leading a 1.3 percent gain in the S&P healthcare sector (.SPXHC).
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) rose 40.48 points, or 0.18 percent, to end at 22,997.44, a record closing high. It rose as high as 23,002.20 during the session.
The S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 1.72 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,559.36, also a record high close. The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dipped 0.35 point, or 0.01 percent, to 6,623.66.
Also boosting some health insurers and U.S. hospital operators was news of a bipartisan deal in the U.S. Senate to stabilize Obamacare. Shares of Anthem (ANTM.N) were up 1.9 percent, while shares of Tenet Healthcare (THC.N) were up 5.3 percent.
Financials were the biggest drag on the S&P 500, with shares of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) down 2.6 percent despite reporting a profit beat and smaller-than-expected trading revenue fall.
Netflix (NFLX.O) slipped 1.6 percent after touching a record high as more subscribers signed up for its original content in the latest quarter.
After the bell, shares of International Business Machines (IBM.N) were up 4.9 percent after the company reported revenue that beat analysts' expectations. The stock ended the regular session down 0.2 percent at $146.54.
During the session, declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.37-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.72-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
About 5.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges. That compares with the 5.9 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
(Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish)