November 5, 2018 / 8:02 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall St boosted by energy, defensive sectors, tech falls

* Apple falls on report of iPhone XR production stand down

* Berkshire gains as Q3 operating profit doubles

* Caution prevails ahead of U.S. midterm election

* Financials, energy, defensive stocks higher

* Dow up 0.43 pct, S&P rises 0.20 pct, Nasdaq down 0.93 pct (Updates to late afternoon, adds commentary, changes byline, adds NEW YORK dateline)

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose on Monday, as oil prices lifted energy stocks and defensive sectors such as utilities and real estate were in demand as investors were cautious about Iran sanctions and U.S. congressional elections.

The energy sector, which has lagged the broader S&P 500 this year, was up 1.6 percent after the United States imposed a range of punitive sanctions on Iran, lifting oil prices.

“Anytime utilities and consumer staples are up that’s a little fear ... it’s the Iran sanctions poking a stick at a part of the world that’s famous for not being amenable to that,” said Kim Forrest, senior portfolio manager at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Investor aversion to risk the day before U.S. mid-term elections also helped to put pressure on sectors such as technology, communications services and consumer discretionary.

“Regardless of your political bent you don’t know what’s going to happen on Tuesday that’s going to affect the next few years so you’re going for safety,” said Forrest.

Opinion polls showed a strong chance of President Donald Trump’s Republican Party holding the Senate but losing control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats - a potential hurdle to Trump’s pro-business agenda, which has been a major driver of the stock market’s rally since the 2016 election.

At 2:43PM ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 201.78 points, or 0.8 percent, to 25,472.61, the S&P 500 gained 17.2 points, or 0.63 percent, to 2,740.26 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 28.27 points, or 0.38 percent, to 7,328.72.

Among the S&P 500’s 11 major sector indexes, the real estate sector was up 1.9 percent making it the biggest percentage gainer. Utilities rose 1.3 percent while consumer staples was up 1.2 percent.

A 3 percent drop in Apple shares represented the biggest drag on Nasdaq after a Nikkei report that the company had told its smartphone assemblers to halt plans for additional production lines dedicated to the iPhone XR.

The stock was on track to post its worst two-day loss since January 2013, after the company’s disappointing holiday-quarter forecast sent its shares down 6.6 percent on Friday.

Berkshire Hathaway jumped 5.7 percent after the conglomerate run by billionaire Warren Buffett said its quarterly operating profit doubled.

The gains helped lift the S&P financial index 1.6 percent ahead of the Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting starting on Wednesday.

Investors have been worried about tightening U.S. monetary policy, especially after a string of strong economic data, including Friday’s jobs report.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.81-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.02-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 32 new highs and 51 new lows. (Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Chizu Nomiyama)

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