August 9, 2018 / 7:25 PM / in 2 months

US STOCKS-Tech stocks extend recent gains, S&P 500 nears record high

* Sinclair drops after Tribune ends merger deal

* Apple leads gains in tech stocks

* Indexes: Dow down 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.03 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct (New throughout, updates prices, market activity and comments to late afternoon)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 was up slightly on Thursday afternoon and again close to a record high on the back of gains in Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

The benchmark index is less than half a percent shy of the record it hit Jan. 26, while the Nasdaq was close to an all-time record as well.

The technology sector has been at the center of a sharp recovery in U.S. stocks since a market rout in February.

Shares of Apple rose 1.1 percent, while those of Amazon were up 1.0 percent and Microsoft rose 0.3 percent.

Technology “is a more important component of every business that operates everywhere. So part of that run up is absolutely justified because of the increasing role of technology,” said Bryan Hinmon, portfolio manager of the Motley Fool Global Opportunities Fund.

Limiting the day’s rise was energy sector. The S&P energy index was down 0.9 percent. Occidental Petroleum , the largest Permian producer, fell 4.2 percent after it maintained a tepid production forecast for the year.

At 3:12PM ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.68 points, or 0.05 percent, to 25,570.07, the S&P 500 gained 0.98 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,858.68 and the Nasdaq Composite added 23.42 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,911.75.

The S&P gains came as the latest data pointed to strength in the labor market, underscoring the health of the U.S. economy despite ongoing trade tensions.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, a Labor Department report showed.

Sinclair dropped after Tribune Media dropped its $3.9 billion deal to be acquired by Sinclair and filed a lawsuit against the company for breach of contract. Tribune shares rose.

Rite Aid fell 11.8 percent after the drug store chain and U.S. grocer Albertsons Cos agreed to terminate their merger agreement.

Chip stocks fell after Morgan Stanley downgraded the U.S. semiconductor industry. Micron, Applied Materials and ON Semiconductor fell.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.15-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.31-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 95 new highs and 58 new lows. (Additonal reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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