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S&P 500 ticks higher as investors weigh stimulus against virus worries

Credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

By Medha Singh and Devik Jain

July 17 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged higher in choppy trading on Friday as investors juggled between prospects of more fiscal stimulus and fears of further business disruptions due to another record-breaking rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.

Netflix shares NFLX.O fell 6.7% after the video streaming service forecast slower-than-expected subscriber growth during the third quarter, pulling the communication services sector .SPLRCL down 0.9%.

The S&P 500 and the Dow are set to close the week higher as optimism over an eventual coronavirus vaccine and hopes of a post-pandemic economic recovery helped investors look past a continuous surge in COVID-19 cases. The United States witnessed 77,000 new infections on Thursday.

"It's going to be fairly range bound until we get more transparency into exactly how the coronavirus is going to affect us long-term," said David Trainer, chief executive officer ofinvestment researchfirm New Constructs in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I don't see a lot of downside, but I do see a lot of rotation away from the really expensive large-cap tech names, into more reasonably valued individual securities."

The Nasdaq was set to end the week lower as investors sold shares of high-flying companies including Microsoft Corp MSFT.O, Apple Inc AAPL.O and Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O and moved into cyclical sectors.

The utilities .SPLRCU and healthcare .SPXHC sectors rose the most among the major S&P sectors.

At 12:33 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 25.52 points, or 0.10%, at 26,709.19, while the S&P 500 .SPX was up 6.55 points, or 0.20%, at 3,222.12. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 17.90 points, or 0.17%, at 10,491.73.

Unprecedented stimulus measures and improving economic data have helped the S&P 500 rise to within 5% of its February record high.

Investors are also hoping for more fiscal support as a program that offers additional unemployment benefits is set to expire on July 31. The U.S. Congress will return to Washington on Monday to battle over the next coronavirus aid bill.

"Both Republicans and Democrats have a strong incentive to agree upon further pre-election stimulus. It's not a matter of 'if' a stimulus passes, it's just what the size and content of that package looks like," said Andrea Bevis, senior vice president, UBS Private Wealth Management, based in Boston.

BlackRock Inc BLK.N, the world's largest asset manager, rose 3.9% after reporting a jump in quarterly profit as investors poured money into its fixed-income funds and cash management services.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.57-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.82-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 73 new highs and seven new lows.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Anil D'Silva)

((Devik.Jain@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 6182 2062; ;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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