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US STOCKS-S&P 500, Dow near record highs on solid forecasts from healthcare firms

·3 min read
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(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.) 

  * Verizon rises on adding more postpaid subscribers 

  * Baker Hughes falls as profit misses estimates 

  * Anthem, Biogen gain on raising FY profit forecasts 

  * Indexes up: Dow 0.46%, S&P 0.42%, Nasdaq 0.17% (Adds comments, updates prices throughout) 

  By Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal 

  Oct 20 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow inched closer to record highs on Wednesday after strong forecasts from healthcare companies Anthem and Abbott, while the Nasdaq lagged as technology stocks took a breather. 

  The Dow Jones Industrials Average was just short of all-time highs reached in mid-August, while the benchmark S&P 500 index traded 0.2% below its early September record. 

  Ten of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes were trading higher, led by healthcare stocks, while technology shares were down 0.1%. 

  Financials gained 0.5% to hit a record high. The S&P 500 Value index, which houses economy-sensitive stocks like energy and industrials, also scaled new peaks. 

  Abbott Laboratories rose 2.9% after raising its full-year profit forecast on a rebound in COVID-19 test sales. 

  Anthem Inc jumped 7.2% and Biogen Inc added 0.3% after both healthcare companies raised their full-year earnings forecasts. 

  Analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to rise 33% from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data, as they kept a close eye on growth outlook from companies faced with rising costs, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. 

  "Earnings is boosting sentiment and we'll know more in two weeks... we're going to hear more about supply chain issues, wage growth and costs, etc. So far we haven't heard too much of that yet," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management in Chicago. 

  Netflix's global sensation "Squid Game" helped lure more customers than expected, the world's largest streaming service said as it predicted a packed lineup would further boost signups through the end of the year. 

  Its shares, however, fell 0.8% after hitting a record high earlier this month and gaining 18.2% so far this year. 

  Facebook Inc added 0.6% after it said it is planning to rebrand itself with new name that focuses on metaverse, according to the Verge. 

  Tesla Inc edged 0.3% higher ahead of its quarterly results, with investors keeping a tab on costs and margins amid chip shortages and supply chain issues. 

  "People are waiting to see what the large tech companies are going to report. That is probably the real reason we're seeing individual stocks responding more than the broader market," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York. 

  The CBOE volatility index, also known as Wall Street's fear gauge, fell to its lowest level since Aug. 13. 

  At 12:02 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 163.79 points, or 0.46%, at 35,621.10, the S&P 500 was up 18.89 points, or 0.42%, at 4,538.52 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 26.24 points, or 0.17%, at 15,155.33. 

  Verizon Communications Inc gained 2.6% as it added more postpaid phone subscribers than expected in the third quarter, while Baker Hughes Co slipped 6.7% on downbeat profit. 

  Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.66-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.52-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. 

  The S&P index recorded 55 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 77 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)