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US STOCKS-Tech boost pushes Wall Street to session highs

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* Ultimate Software jumps on $11 bln buyout deal

* Alphabet rises ahead of results due after-market

* Allergan falls after cheaper Botox rival gets approval

* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.33 pct, Nasdaq 0.90 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Medha Singh

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street gained on Monday to hitsession highs boosted by technology shares ahead of Alphabet'searnings, the last FAANG stock to post quarterly results.

FAANG earnings have been a mixed bag so far, with Apple IncAAPL.O and Facebook IncFB.O posting better-than-expectedquarterly results last week, while Netflix IncNFLX.O andAmazon.com Inc AMZN.O forecast downbeat current-quarternumbers.

Google parent Alphabet IncGOOGL.O rose 1 percent, andmore than 2.5 percent gains in high-flying tech names such asApple Inc AAPL.O and Microsoft CorpMSFT.O boosted theNasdaq, leading the technology sector higher by 1.28 percent.

UnitedHealth Group IncUNH.N and Johnson & JohnsonJNJ.N pulled the healthcare sector .SPXHC 0.68 percent lower,keeping gains in check for the blue-chip Dow and S&P 500 .SPX .

Defensive consumer staples .SPLRCS , utilities .SPLRCU and real estate .SPLRCR were also lower.

"We're seeing the markets higher and it is an extension tothe risk-on sentiment that we've been seeing since earlyJanuary," said Massud Ghaussy, senior analyst at Nasdaq IRIntelligence in New York.

At current levels, the benchmark S&P stood about 8 percentaway from its Sept. 20 record close and was helped recently bysigns of progress in U.S.-China trade talks and as the FederalReserve pledged to be patient with further interest rate hikes.

A stronger-than-expected jobs report on Friday underscoredstrength in the domestic economy though concerns remained that aslowdown in the rest of the world could hurt U.S. earnings, withwarnings from bellwethers including Caterpillar IncCAT.N .

"We're starting off first quarter with a very high bar andit looks like it will be tough to beat," Ghaussy said.

About 71 percent of nearly half of the S&P 500 companiesthat have reported so far, have exceeded analysts' estimates,according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Since the earnings season kicked off three weeks ago,analysts' estimates for fourth-quarter profit growth have risento 15.4 percent from 14.3 percent, but the forecast for thefirst quarter of 2019 has dropped to 0.5 percent from 3.4percent.

At 1:12 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI wasup 37.77 points, or 0.15 percent, at 25,101.66, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 8.81 points, or 0.33 percent, at 2,715.34 and theNasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 65.61 points, or 0.90 percent,at 7,329.48.

Allergan PlcAGN.N dropped about 4 percent after the FDAapproved Evolus Inc'sEOLS.O cheaper version of blockbusterBotox. Evolus jumped 14.78 percent.

In a bright spot, Ultimate Software Group IncULTI.O surged 19.53 percent after the HR software provider agreed to bebought by an investor group led by Hellman & Friedman in a $11billion deal. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N1ZZ2RC

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.56-to-1 ratioon the NYSE and a 1.89-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded nine new 52-week highs and no newlows, while the Nasdaq recorded 55 new highs and 12 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; additional reporting byAmy Caren Daniel; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta) ((Medha.Singh@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1646 223 8780,outside U.S. +91 80 6749 1130; Reuters Messaging:medha.singh.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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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