* Alphabet rises ahead of results due after market close
* Ultimate Software jumps on $11 bln buyout deal
* Allergan falls after cheaper Botox rival gets approval
* Indexes up: Dow 0.40 pct, S&P 0.43 pct, Nasdaq 0.97 pct (Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline, adds dateline)
By April Joyner
NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street gained on Monday as technology shares rose ahead of quarterly results from Alphabet Inc, the last member of the FAANG group of internet companies to announce its earnings.
Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc rose 1.9 percent, while shares of tech companies Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp each rose more than 2.5 percent. Apple and Microsoft’s gains helped S&P 500 technology stocks gain 1.5 percent, the greatest rise among the benchmark index’s major sectors.
FAANG earnings have been a mixed bag so far. Shares of Apple and Facebook Inc rose after those companies’ quarterly results, while downbeat forecasts from Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc dragged down those companies’ shares.
Continued optimism regarding a possible trade truce between the United States and China also boosted tech shares in particular, said Shawn Cruz, manager of trading strategy at TD Ameritrade in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“That’s the theme that’s going to be driving markets for the next couple of months, a focus on geopolitical headlines,” he said. “There’s not any negative news developing on the trade dispute with China front. That’s giving tech a little bit of a bid today.”
S&P 500 industrial stocks, another trade-sensitive group, posted the second-highest percentage gain among sectors, advancing 0.9 percent.
However, declines in shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc and Johnson & Johnson pulled the healthcare sector 0.6 percent lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 111.16 points, or 0.44 percent, to 25,175.05, the S&P 500 gained 12.41 points, or 0.46 percent, to 2,718.94 and the Nasdaq Composite added 71.66 points, or 0.99 percent, to 7,335.53.
After having dropped nearly 20 percent below its record Sept. 20 close, the S&P 500 is now less than 8 percent away from reaching that level. U.S. stocks have been lifted so far this year by the Federal Reserve’s resolve to be “patient” with further interest rate hikes in addition to signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks.
Earnings season has also been relatively positive. About 71 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have exceeded analysts’ estimates, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Analyst estimates for fourth-quarter profit growth are now at 15.4 percent. The profit growth forecast for the first quarter of 2019, however, is much lower at 0.5 percent.
Allergan Plc shares dropped 4.1 percent after the FDA approved Evolus Inc’s cheaper version of blockbuster Botox. Evolus shares jumped 12.4 percent.
Shares of Ultimate Software Group Inc surged 20.1 percent after the HR software provider announced that it had agreed to be acquired in a deal valued at about $11 billion.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.71-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 1.94-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 58 new highs and 13 new lows. (Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Dan Grebler)