US STOCKS-Caterpillar drives the Dow, energy sector lifts S&P
* S&P 500 touches intraday record high, materials and energy help
* Investors seeking catalysts after rally
* Apple shares slip after gaining for three days
* Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P 500 up 0.5 pct; Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 extending its three-day rally to yet another intraday high, led by gains in the materials and energy sectors.
Caterpillar Inc, the world's largest construction and mining equipment maker, was the Dow's biggest percentage gainer with its stock up 2.1 percent at $89.39. The S&P materials sector index was up 0.8 percent.
The energy sector was driven higher by U.S. oil and gas producer EOG Resources Inc, which climbed 8.1 percent to $136.24 a day after the company reported first-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's expectations. The S&P energy sector index gained 0.7 percent.
The tech sector, however, was the day's top decliner, as a drop in Apple shares limited the Nasdaq composite index's gain.
Shares of First Solar and video subscription company Netflix also slipped, pressuring the Nasdaq.
The broad S&P 500 index has advanced for three straight sessions, extending its gain for the year to 14 percent.
"We've been in this market where even the slightest bit of decline is met with a bounce right back up. That just shows there are still people waiting to get into equities," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 58.87 points, or 0.50 percent, at 15,043.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 7.78 points, or 0.48 percent, at 1,625.28. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 3.84 points, or 0.11 percent, at 3,396.81.
Earlier, the S&P 500 touched a fresh all-time intraday high at 1,624.53.
Shares of JPMorgan, up 2.1 percent at $49.19, also bolstered the Dow. The S&P financial sector index was up 0.7 percent.
In contrast, Apple's stock shed 0.4 percent to $458.83 in volatile trading after rising for the past three sessions.
"A bit of profit taking in Apple is weighing on the tech sector. The stock has moved sharply in the past few sessions on no news. The rally was just based on valuation," Ghriskey said.
The gains so far have come on strong corporate results and accommodative monetary policies from the Federal Reserve, two factors that may now be priced into markets. Last week's jobs report was unexpectedly strong, helping to drive stocks' advance.
Equities this year have gone without a sustained pullback as investors use any market decline to add to positions. Many analysts expect markets to trend higher, but some see a near-term pullback, citing a lack of positive catalysts and mixed economic data.
First Solar shares lost 9.1 percent to $43.33 and ranked as one of the S&P 500's worst performers after reporting earnings below Wall Street's expectations late Monday.
Netflix shares slid 1.9 percent to $206.75.
But both Fossil Inc and DirecTV reported earnings that surged past expectations. Fossil's stock jumped 9.5 percent to $108.35 and was the S&P 500's top percentage gainers. DirecTV, up 6.8 percent at $61.87, ranked third among the S&P 500's top performers, based on percentage gains, in early afternoon trading.
Earnings have largely been better than expected. About 67.4 percent of S&P 500 companies have surpassed estimates so far. At the same time, revenues have been disappointing.
Recent gains have come on strength in technology and banking shares, two groups that are closely tied to the pace of growth.
The market also drew support from European equities' gains, with sentiment boosted by a record closing high in the German DAX index.