July 9, 2018 / 8:51 PM / 12 days ago

US STOCKS-Dow, S&P 500 post best days in more than a month; banks lead gains

* S&P banks index on track for best day since March 26

* Caterpillar up as trade war fears ease

* Indexes up: Dow 1.3 pct, S&P 0.9 pct, Nasdaq 0.9 pct (Updates to close)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, July 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday, giving the Dow and S&P 500 their biggest gains in more than a month, as bank shares jumped ahead of earnings reports later this week.

Industrial, energy and consumer discretionary shares also rose sharply, while S&P utilities and telecommunications - among the market’s recent outperformers - led percentage declines.

The S&P banks index climbed 2.7 percent, registering its biggest daily percentage gain since March 26. The S&P 500 financial index rose 2.3 percent, leading gains among sectors.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc are scheduled to report results on Friday, kicking off the second-quarter earnings season in earnest.

“We’re on the eve of what’s going to be a dynamite earnings season,” for the S&P 500 overall, said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

A stronger economy and plans for more buybacks also are helping bank shares, he said.

Investors may also be shifting their focus for now away from trade tensions between the United States and China. The two countries slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s goods on Friday.

“The angst going into last Friday was pretty significant, and now, with the realization that we’re here and the world hasn’t come to an end,... the money is falling in,” Hellwig said.

Helping to boost the Dow, Caterpillar Inc rose 4.1 percent. The S&P industrial sector jumped 1.8 percent. Caterpillar and other industrials have been among hardest hit by recent trade worries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 320.11 points, or 1.31 percent, to 24,776.59, the S&P 500 gained 24.35 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,784.17 and the Nasdaq Composite added 67.81 points, or 0.88 percent, to 7,756.20.

A Bank of America Merrill Lynch research report showed earnings per share for S&P 500 companies for 2018 was revised higher amid better-than-expected first-quarter results, higher oil prices and stronger-than-expected U.S. economic growth.

U.S. analysts’ estimates for S&P 500 second-quarter profit growth have risen slightly since April, putting the latest forecast at around 21 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Twitter Inc sank after the Washington Post reported that the social media company suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June, which analysts said could be negative for user growth, but it pared losses after its CFO tweeted that most accounts Twitter removes are not included in reported metrics. The stock ended down 5.4 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.77-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.65-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 142 new highs and 30 new lows. (Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Susan Thomas)

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