US STOCKS-S&P 500 climbs to near record high as earnings season shifts to high gear

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* S&P 500 within 1% of all-time high

* JPMorgan jump starts Q1 reporting season with earningsbeat

* Disney shares jump after pricing streaming service

* Indexes up: Dow 0.96%, S&P 0.62%, Nasdaq 0.42% (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline, byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, April 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed back tonear record highs on Friday after the largest U.S. bank,JPMorgan Chase & Co, soothed worries that the first-quarterearnings season would pour cold water on Wall Street's big rallyback from last year's slump.

The S&P 500 has come within a percent of September's recordclosing high, regaining ground lost after a punishing sell-offin the closing months of the year which brought the benchmarkindex within a rounding error of bear market territory.

Since then, the three major indexes notched their bestquarterly gains in nearly a decade in the first quarter, buthave been in a holding pattern in April ahead of first-quarterearnings season.

JPMorgan, effectively kicking off the quarterly earningsreporting season that will dominate Wall Street's agenda for thecoming weeks, breezed past analyst estimates, easing fears thatslowing economic growth could weigh on its results. Its stockrose 4.5% and led a broad rally in bank stocks.

"I think people were heading into this earnings seasonfearing the beginning of an earnings recession. The JPMorgannews has given them a little bit of hope," said Robert Pavlik,chief investment strategist, senior portfolio manager atSlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. "I would liken it to someonedrifting on a raft and seeing land."

Analyst now expect S&P 500 companies to show a 2.3%year-on-year decline in earnings, slightly improved from theirmost recent reading of a 2.5% drop, per Refinitiv data. Butfirst-quarter profit is still seen logging its first annualcontraction since 2016.

However, of the 29 companies in the S&P 500 that havereported thus far, 79.3% have come in above analystexpectations.

The Nasdaq and the Dow were both about 1.6% below theirprevious record highs.

For the week, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were on courseto show their third consecutive gains, while the Dow looked setto post a nominal weekly loss.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 251.24 points,or 0.96%, to 26,394.29, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 17.82 points,or 0.62%, to 2,906.14 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added33.64 points, or 0.42%, to 7,981.00.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but healthcare .SPXHC were trading in the black.

Financials .SPSY were the largest percentage gainer,rising 1.9% on the back of JPMorgan Chase earnings.

Healthcare stocks extended their slide, with UnitedHealthGroup UNH.N , Anthem IncANTM.N and Humana IncHUM.N downbetween 2% and 6.5%. The S&P 500 Healthcare index .SPXHC slipped 0.8%.

In the largest energy deal since 2016, Chevron CorpCVX.N said it would buy Anadarko Petroleum CorpAPC.N for $33billion in cash and stock.

Chevron's stock dipped by 4.7% following the announcement,while Anadarko shot up 32.7%.

Walt Disney CoDIS.N jumped 10.8% after the media companypriced its upcoming streaming service.

Streaming rival Netflix IncNFLX.O was down 4.4%.

Boeing CoBA.N was up 2.3% as the plane maker bounced backfrom its recent sell-off due to the grounding of its 737 MAXjets.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a1.86-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.33-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 53 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; theNasdaq Composite recorded 85 new highs and 32 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen CulpEditing by Chizu Nomiyama) ((; 646-223-6076;))

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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