January 3, 2018 / 3:06 PM / 14 days ago

US STOCKS-S&P cruises past 2,700 as tech stocks advance

* MoneyGram tumbles after deal with Ant Financial collapses

* Oracle, IBM rise after rating upgrades

* Harley-Davidson skids after downgrade

* Indexes up: Dow 0.12 pct, S&P 0.17 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct (Updates to open)

By Sruthi Shankar

Jan 3 (Reuters) - The benchmark S&P 500 breached the 2,700-mark for the first time shortly after open on Wednesday, while the Nasdaq and the Dow hit records on a strong run in technology stocks.

Oracle and IBM rose about 3 percent following brokerage upgrades, helping the S&P technology index gain about 1 percent.

U.S. stocks kicked off 2018 on a strong note on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closing at record levels.

“The sentiment is very much positive. We had a strong start and we are likely to see a follow through in the near-term,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

At 9:39 a.m. ET (1439 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 30.89 points, or 0.12 percent, at 24,854.9 and the S&P 500 was up 4.61 points, or 0.17 percent, at 2,700.42. The Nasdaq Composite was up 21.37 points, or 0.3 percent, at 7,028.27.

However, gains in the technology sector were limited by a 2 percent drop in Intel following a report that its processor chips had a fundamental design flaw.

Rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices was up about 5 percent. Other chipmakers Nvidia and Micron were also higher.

The Federal Open Market Committee is set to release minutes from its December meeting, when the central bank raised interest rates for the third time in 2017.

Investors will parse the minutes, due at 2:00 p.m. ET, for hints on rate tightening action in the coming months and the impact of the U.S. tax overhaul on the economy and inflation.

The odds of a March rate hike are at 56.3 percent level, according to the CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

“There’s a lot more mystery surrounding the Fed. We see the Fed as being somewhat more hawkish in 2018, but this is the time when the risks of the policy are really starting to increase,” Brown said.

In other stock moves, Scana Corp was up more than 23 percent after Dominion Energy said it would buy the utility in an all-stock deal $7.9 billion deal.

MoneyGram International fell about 10 percent after Alibaba-owned Ant Financial’s plan to acquire the U.S. money transfer company in a $1.2 billion deal collapsed due to national security concerns.

Harley-Davidson slipped 3.5 percent after brokerage Longbow Research downgraded the company’s stock to “underperform”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,587 to 988. On the Nasdaq, 1,402 issues rose and 1,055 fell.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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