December 14, 2017 / 6:19 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-S&P, Dow flat as healthcare losses offset by tech, media gains

* Disney to buy Fox assets for over $52 bln

* Weekly jobless claims fall; Nov. retail sales beat estimates

* Healthcare stocks biggest drag on S&P

* Indexes up: Dow 0.04 pct, S&P 500 flat, Nasdaq 0.15 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Rama Venkat Raman and Sruthi Shankar

Dec 14 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow were trading flat in early afternoon on Thursday as losses in healthcare stocks such as Johnson & Johnson were offset by gains in shares of technology and consumer discretionary companies.

Walt Disney struck a deal to buy Twenty-First Century Fox’s assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Fox rose 4.12 percent and Disney 2.2 percent, boosting the consumer discretionary sector by 0.5 percent. Other media stocks Netflix and Comcast were also higher.

Gains in technology stocks Alphabet and Facebook lifted the Nasdaq up 0.15 percent to 6,886.32.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest laggards, led by a 0.7 percent fall in Johnson & Johnson and 1.3 percent fall in AbbVie.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.04 percent at 24,594.28, while the S&P 500 was down 0.02 percent, at 2,662.32.

Indexes were still hovering near record levels on optimism over the progress in Republican-led tax overhaul and the Federal Reserve’s economic growth projection.

A final tax bill could be unveiled by Friday, with decisive votes expected next week in both chambers.

The Fed on Wednesday raised interest rate by a quarter-percentage-point for the third time in 2017 and raised its 2018 economic growth forecast to 2.5 percent from 2.1 percent.

“Talks on tax reforms and the Fed announcement brings confidence in the fact that the economy is still moving in a positive and sustained fashion,” said Paul Springmeyer, investment managing director at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management.

“You’ve seen some M&A activity hit the screens that is driving some interest as well - that’s a three-legged soul that’s moving the market.”

Growth outlook was also bolstered by data that showed a better-than-expected increase in U.S. retail sales in November.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to near a 44-1/2-year low last week.

Telecom service providers Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink were down between 0.7 percent to 1 percent and weighed on the S&P telecom index.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,485 to 1,365. On the Nasdaq, 1,523 issues fell and 1,314 advanced.

Reporting by Rama Venkat Raman and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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