April 12, 2019 / 5:41 PM / 4 months ago

US STOCKS-Gains in Walt Disney, bank shares bolster Wall Street

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* JPM kicks off earnings on a high note, boost bank stocks

* Anadarko tops gains on S&P after Chevron’s $33 bln deal

* Disney shares hit a record after pricing streaming service

* Indexes up: Dow 0.89%, S&P 0.55%, Nasdaq 0.33% (Updates to early afternoon)

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar

April 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday, lifting the S&P 500 above the 2,900 mark for the first time since early October, boosted by gains in Walt Disney shares and as bank stocks surged after strong results from JPMorgan.

Shares of the largest U.S. bank by assets rose 4.8% after the company beat quarterly profit estimates, easing fears that slowing economic growth could weigh on its results.

The S&P financial index rose 1.74%, providing the biggest boost to the main index, while the S&P banks index gained 2.26%.

Stocks have been in a holding pattern ahead of the first-quarter earnings season, which many analysts say could be the first quarterly drop in S&P 500 profit since 2016.

Shares of Wells Fargo & Co fell 2.7% after the lender cut its forecast for 2019 net interest income, while PNC Financial Services Group Inc rose 2.9% after its first-quarter profit met estimates.

“Expectations for this earnings cycle have been subdued, but after results from these big financials it shows that things have started off really well. So one has to wonder maybe the expectations were too low to begin with. But so far, so good,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

Walt Disney Co shares hit a record high after the company priced its streaming service in a bid to challenge the digital dominance of Netflix Inc. A 9.7% jump in Disney boosted the communication services sector by about 1%. Netflix was down 3.8%.

At 12:53 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 232.89 points, or 0.89%, at 26,375.94, the S&P 500 was up 15.75 points, or 0.55%, at 2,904.07 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 26.29 points, or 0.33%, at 7,973.65.

Analysts project earnings growth at S&P 500 companies to decline 2.3 percent in the first quarter as the impact of tax cuts fade and worries about global growth come to the fore. Bank earnings are expected to grow 3%, according to Refinitiv data.

However, investors are hoping that the earnings season will be better than feared, helping the U.S. indexes reach all-time highs. The S&P 500 is just 1.3% away from a record high hit in September.

The S&P 500 total return index hit a record high on Friday, underscoring the importance of reinvesting dividends.

A $33 billion deal in the energy sector helped oil and gas stocks. Anadarko Petroleum Corp jumped 32.6%, topping gains on the S&P 500, after Chevron Corp said it would buy the company in a cash-and-stock deal.

The S&P energy index was up about 0.44%, with peers Devon Energy Corp, EOG Resources Inc and Pioneer Natural Resources Co gaining between 3% and 11%.

The healthcare sector fell 0.62%, led by declines in health insurers UnitedHealth Group and Anthem Inc . Analysts pointed to negative news throughout the week concerning potential regulatory changes to how the healthcare industry works.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.87-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.38-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 46 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 73 new highs and 30 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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