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* Banks gain, to kick off earnings season on Friday
* Health stock up for 6th session, Illumina leads
* Donald Trump to hold press conference on Wednesday
* Indexes up: Dow 0.31 pct, S&P 0.43 pct, Nasdaq 0.54 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
Jan 10 (Reuters) - The Nasdaq hit a record intraday high on Tuesday, extending its bullish run as healthcare stocks rose for the sixth straight session, while a jump in banks boost the S&P 500 and the Dow.
America Express and Caterpillar, both up more than 2 percent, led the 21 gainers among the 30 Dow components and set the blue-chip index back on course for the elusive 20,000-points mark.
Investors are looking to the upcoming corporate earnings season to justify the record levels Wall Street has surged to in a rally since Donald Trump's U.S. presidential election win on Nov. 8.
While the rally has stalled of late, its continuation will more immediately depend on the President-elect's news conference on Wednesday, when investors will assess how his first few days in the White House may look like.
Corporate earnings will be a factor over the next month.
"We've shifted from that exuberance post the election and the rotation into some of the sectors and now we are entering a wait-and-see mode with earnings knocking at the front door," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Equity Capital Markets in News York.
"Earnings may be the pivot to move things higher."
S&P 500 companies look unlikely to disappoint.
They are set to post their strongest quarterly growth in three years, with earnings estimated to have risen 5.8 percent in the fourth quarter, mainly driven by financials, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
At 12:30 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 62.12 points, or 0.31 percent, at 19,949.5 and the S&P 500 was up 9.73 points, or 0.43 percent, at 2,278.63.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 29.64 points, or 0.54 percent, at a record high of 5,564.25.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.03 percent gain in financials.
Big U.S. banks will kick off the earnings season, with JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo scheduled to report on Friday. Bank of America and Wells Fargo were up about 2 percent.
Healthcare stocks gained 0.65 percent and the Nasdaq biotech index was 0.5 percent higher, both up for the sixth session in a row.
Illumina surged 16.3 percent to $164.63 after the diagnostics company gave a strong quarterly forecast and launched a new product.
Zimmer Biomet rose 8 percent to $115.42 after the orthopedics company said it expects fourth-quarter net sales well above analysts' expectations.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,959 to 890. On the Nasdaq, 1,830 issues rose and 916 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 60 new highs and 15 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)