* Caterpillar up after Citi says stock can outperform
* Merck rises after Goldman Sachs upgrades to “buy”
* Hasbro tumbles after profit misses expectations
* Indexes up: Dow 0.03 pct, S&P 0.06 pct, Nasdaq 0.03 pct (Updates to open)
By Sruthi Shankar
April 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday, with gains in industrial and healthcare stocks offseting the impact from falling oil prices, as investors kept an eye on rising U.S. bond yields.
The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries, the benchmark for global borrowing costs, hit 2.998 percent, its highest since January 2014. The U.S. five-year inflation swap, a key market gauge of long-term U.S. inflation, hit its highest level in 3-1/2 years.
The last time 10-year Treasury yields neared 3 percent, in 2013, it rocked risk appetite and sent stocks sliding and was shortly before oil prices went on a mighty 75 percent tumble. More recently, the stock market sold off in February as inflation expectations sent treasury yields surging.
But analysts say strong earnings could help investors overlook such concerns, at least for the moment.
“Earnings are going to be the bigger factor, the increase in yields isn’t too excessive just yet and investors maybe willing to take it in stride,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“We came into the earnings season with pretty lofty expectations and the earnings have been relatively strong.”
The prospect of rising inflation comes as U.S. companies are reporting results for what is turning out to be a much stronger-than-expected first quarter.
Profits at S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 20 percent in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, making it the strongest quarter in seven years.
At 9:49 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7.01 points, or 0.03 percent, at 24,469.95, the S&P 500 was up 1.48 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,671.62 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.01 points, or 0.03 percent, at 7,148.14.
This week, 181 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report including some of the technology heavy-hitters like Facebook , Microsoft, Amazon and Intel. Alphabet reports after markets close on Monday.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.35 percent gain in the S&P healthacre index.
Merck rose 1.6 percent after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy”.
Caterpillar rose 0.6 percent after Citigroup upgraded to “buy”, saying the stock could outperform over the next six to 12 months.
Boeing rose 0.3 percent, providing the biggest boost to the Dow and industrial stocks.
In a move that could ease tensions between the United States and China, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday he may travel to China to try to resolve differences over trade.
Hasbro fell 1 percent after the toymaker reported a bigger-than-expected drop in quarterly revenue, blaming the liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.14-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded three new 52-week highs and nine new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)