February 8, 2017 / 8:11 PM / 8 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500 inches up while banks drag on Dow

* Allergan gains after results; Gilead tumbles on forecast

* Cognizant rises after board deal with Elliott

* Financials lag, while real estate, utilities shine

* Dow down 0.19 pct, S&P up 0.06 pct, Nasdaq up 0.15 pct (Updates to late afternoon)

By Lewis Krauskopf

Feb 8 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged higher on Wednesday as investors digested mixed earnings reports, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved lower as bank stocks weighed.

Allergan shares rose 4.3 percent after the drugmaker’s fourth-quarter profit and revenue topped estimates. Gilead Sciences shares tumbled 9.6 percent and were the biggest drag on the benchmark S&P after the biotech company’s weak forecast for its hepatitis C medicines.

Major U.S. stock indexes are hovering around record highs after a rally following the Nov. 8 election of President Donald Trump, with expectations he will usher in fiscal stimulus and lower regulations and taxes.

But the rally has stagnated in recent days as investors await more details about Trump’s potential economic policy agenda.

“Usually, this would be a period in which earnings and guidance drive the market,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“But because it’s the first three weeks or four weeks of a new president who is promoting radical change than what has been going on, Washington takes precedence, I think, over earnings in the eyes of investors these days.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 37.74 points, or 0.19 percent, to 20,052.55, the S&P 500 gained 1.44 points, or 0.06 percent, to 2,294.52 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.26 points, or 0.15 percent, to 5,682.48.

Financials, which have soared since the election, was the worst-performing S&P sector, falling 0.8 percent. Goldman Sachs fell 0.6 percent and JP Morgan dropped 1.1 percent, making the stocks two of the biggest drags on the Dow.

Bank stocks are sensitive to interest rate changes, and U.S. Treasury yields fell to their lowest levels in multiple weeks.

The real estate and utilities sectors, which tend to perform well in low rate environments, were two of the best performing groups.

With about two-thirds of the S&P 500 having reported results, fourth-quarter earnings are on track to have climbed 8.3 percent, which would be the best performance since the third quarter of 2014, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In other corporate news, Cognizant rose 4.4 percent after the IT services provider agreed to appoint three new directors and return $3.4 billion to shareholders, bowing to pressure from activist investor Elliott Management.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.12-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.32-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 81 new highs and 46 new lows. (Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D‘Silva and Alan Crosby)

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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