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US STOCKS-S&P 500 hits new intraday record, regaining pre-COVID levels

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* Nasdaq hits intra-day high for second straight day

* Home Depot, Walmart shares mixed after results

* Indexes: Dow dips 0.03%, S&P up 0.30%, Nasdaq rises 0.64% (Updates to afternoon trading, adds fresh comment, changes byline)

NEW YORK, Aug 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 climbed to a record on Tuesday, surpassing a level hit in February before the coronavirus crisis and crowning one of the most dramatic recoveries in the index’s history.

Trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus have made Wall Street flush with cash, pushing yield-seeking investors into equities. Amazon and other high growth technology-related stocks have been viewed as the most reliable to ride out the crisis.

The S&P 500 rose as much as 0.4% to an all-time high of 3,395.06 points during the session. If the benchmark ends the session above its Feb. 19 record high close of 3,386.15, it would confirm that the index has been in a new bull market since hitting its pandemic low on March 23. It has surged about 55% since then.

Doubts about the underlying health of the economy, however, persisted in Tuesday’s session, with lukewarm reactions to bumper results from Home Depot and Walmart limiting gains.

The S&P 500 flirted with all-time highs for several sessions before finally hitting a new record, raising questions about whether this run of gains could last.

“It begs the question whether the S&P will continue to make broader-based highs, not just in the technology space,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta. “Is there enough participation outside of the technology to drive new highs?”

At 1:53 pm ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.31 points, or 0.03%, to 27,837.6, the S&P 500 gained 10.18 points, or 0.30%, to 3,392.17 and the Nasdaq Composite added 70.91 points, or 0.64%, to 11,200.64.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index, which was the first to bounce back fully from March lows, hit a record high for the second consecutive session.

Consumer discretionary rose the most among major S&P sectors on strength in Amazon while technology stocks provided another major support to the benchmark index.

“Technology stocks continue to be the leaders ... that really hasn’t changed from what we’ve been looking at over the past couple of months,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Home Depot Inc reported its biggest rise in quarterly same-store sales in at least two decades, however, its shares fell about 1% after analysts cautioned that its sales might have hit their peak.

Walmart Inc traded marginally higher after posting its biggest-ever growth in online sales as shoppers cashed in stimulus checks and ordered everything from electronics and toys to groceries from the safety of their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data on Tuesday showed U.S. homebuilding accelerated by the most in nearly four years in July in the latest sign the housing sector is emerging as one of the few areas of strength in an economy suffering a record slowdown. That further added to market optimism.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s recent meeting due on Wednesday, meanwhile, may provide some insight into how the central bank sees the recovery playing out. The Fed has cut rates to near zero to bolster business through the pandemic.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.66-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 31 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 63 new highs and 16 new lows.

Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick and Medha Singh in Bengalaru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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