US STOCKS-Wall St higher as Syria fears ease, earnings in focus

Reuters

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    * Merck rises on positive Keytruda drug data
    * JB Hunt jumps after results
    * Netflix down ahead of earnings 
    * Indexes up: Dow 1.2 pct, S&P 0.98 pct, Nasdaq 0.85 pct

 (Updates to early afternoon)
    By Sruthi Shankar
    April 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday, with
technology and healthcare shares leading the way as investors
appeared less concerned about possible retaliation for the
U.S.-led missile attack in Syria.
    The weekend's air strikes marked the biggest intervention by
Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and
his ally Russia, which is facing further economic sanctions over
its role in the conflict.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1RT2KB
    The gains on Wall Street were broad-based as investors
shifted their focus to the corporate earnings season, which is
expected to get a big boost from the U.S. tax reforms.
    S&P 500 companies are expected to report an 18.6 percent
jump in first-quarter profit on average, the biggest rise in
seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data. 
    "People are optimistic in the earnings season ... but there
are a lot of forces working in the market - technicals, earnings
and geopolitics, which is the biggest wild card," said J.J.
Feldman, portfolio manager at Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile
Advisors.
    At 12:58 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI 
was up 282.95 points, or 1.16 percent, at 24,643.09, the S&P 500
 .SPX  was up 26.01 points, or 0.98 percent, at 2,682.31 and the
Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  was up 60.76 points, or 0.85 percent,
at 7,167.41.
    Merck  MRK.N  rose 2.5 percent after the company presented
positive data on its cancer drug Keytruda, driving a 0.7 percent
gain in the healthcare index  .SPXHC .  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N1RQ297
    Technology stocks  .SPLRCT  gained 0.9 percent.
    "Tech and healthcare may be two sectors trading below their
20 year PEs, meaning there is still value in those sectors,"
Feldman said.
    Shares of optical components makers, including those of
Acacia Communications  ACIA.O  and Oclaro  OCLR.O , took a
beating after Reuters reported that the U.S. government was
banning American companies from selling components to Chinese
telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp  0000063.SZ   0763.HK .
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N1RT0H3
    JB Hunt Transport Services  JBHT.O  jumped 5.5 percent after
the trucking company's profit topped estimates.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N1RT50S
    Bank of America  BAC.N  posted marginal gains after
reporting a better-than-expected increase in quarterly profit.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N1RT46T
    Netflix  NFLX.O  fell more than 1 percent. The company is
expected to reports results after the closing bell on Monday. 
    Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a
2.79-to-1 ratio and on the Nasdaq, a 1.81-to-1 ratio favored
advancers.

 (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil
D'Silva)
 ((sruthi.shankar@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223
8780; outside U.S. +91 80 6749 6328; Reuters Messaging:
sruthi.shankar.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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