April 17, 2018 / 7:30 PM / 7 days ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street rises on earnings optimism, Netflix soars

* Netflix surges to record high after strong results

* UnitedHealth rises on upbeat results, forecast

* Goldman, J&J drop despite topping profit estimates

* Indexes up: Dow 0.89 pct, S&P 500 1.05 pct, Nasdaq 1.74 pct

* All three indexes top their 50-day moving averages (Updates to late afternoon, adds commentary, NEW YORK dateline; changes byline)

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK April 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday, helped by gains in the technology and consumer sectors, while Netflix and UnitedHealth earnings impressed investors and boosted optimism about the U.S. corporate reporting season.

Netflix shares rose 10 percent to hit an all-time high after the video-streaming pioneer smashed analysts’ quarterly subscriber estimates.

UnitedHealth jumped 3 percent after the largest U.S. health insurer raised its earnings forecast and posted results that beat Wall Street estimates.

Analysts expect profits of S&P 500 companies to rise 18.6 percent in the first quarter, the biggest increase in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“Earnings are threading a little bit ahead of Wall Street expectations,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner of Harris Financial Group in Richmond, Virginia. “We get into the teeth of technology next week. It’s been more volatile so you would expect that volatility to reverse as earnings come in.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 218.16 points, or 0.89 percent, to 24,791.2, the S&P 500 gained 28.14 points, or 1.05 percent, to 2,705.98 and the Nasdaq Composite added 124.30 points, or 1.74 percent, to 7,280.58.

“Barring any unforeseen negative news, geopolitical, economic, political, perhaps we’ll end up today the way we ended up yesterday - which was at or near highs for popular averages,” said Ted Weisberg, a trader with Seaport Securities in New York.

Data showed U.S. homebuilding increased more than expected in March amid a rebound in the construction of multi-family housing units. The PHLX housing index rose 1.12 percent.

Ten of 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by the technology index’s 2.2-percent gain. The consumer discretionary index rose 1.85 percent, boosted by Netflix and Amazon, which gained 4 percent.

BofA Merrill Lynch’s April fund manager survey found the world’s biggest tech stocks were investors’ top pick for the third straight month despite mounting worries over regulation.

The financial index was the only one of the S&P’s major sectors in the red, down 0.3 percent as bank stocks fell.

Goldman Sachs was down 2 percent as investors reacted to a pause in share buybacks and rising expenses, as well as indications it might be open to an acquisition. Goldman’s profit, however, beat Wall Street’s expectations.

J&J fell 1.4 percent after the healthcare conglomerate raised its sales forecast for the year but kept its outlook for full-year profit unchanged.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.29-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.06-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 117 new highs and 38 new lows. (Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Nick Zieminski)

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