July 17, 2018 / 6:47 PM / 4 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St gains on Powell comments, rosy earnings expectations

* Powell: several years of strong jobs, low inflation ahead

* J&J gains on profit beat, boosts Dow and S&P 500

* Netflix drops on weak subscriber growth; drags S&P

* UnitedHealth, Goldman drop on unconvincing profit beats

* Indexes up: Dow 0.23 pct, S&P 0.44 pct, Nasdaq 0.66 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes dateline to NEW YORK, changes byline)

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street pushed higher on Tuesday as investors looked to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s optimistic view of the U.S. economy and as solid earnings supported expectations of a strong second-quarter reporting season.

In written testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Powell discounted trade policy risks and signaled not just that he believes the economy is doing well, but that an era of stable growth may continue, provided the Fed gets its policy decisions right.

“He’s pretty upbeat on the outlook,” said Richard Franulovich, head of FX strategy at Westpac Banking Corporation in New York. “The global picture is solid. Financial conditions are very accommodative. He rattled off a long list of reasons why you should expect solid growth.”

As the second-quarter earnings season shifts into high gear this week, analyst expectations have grown rosier.

Analysts now see second-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth of 21.2 percent, up from 20.7 percent on July 1. Of the 39 companies in the index that have reported so far, 84.6 percent have come in ahead of Street expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“We’ve seen some good numbers out of some companies, providing support for the forecasts that were suggesting that we’re going to see another strong earnings season,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

In economic news, U.S. industrial production increased in June, led by a manufacturing rebound and mining gains, according to the Federal Reserve.

At 2:41 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 57.13 points, or 0.23 percent, to 25,121.49, the S&P 500 gained 12.32 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,810.75 and the Nasdaq Composite added 51.18 points, or 0.66 percent, to 7,856.89.

The Nasdaq’s advance was led by Facebook Inc, Google-parent Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com Inc , all of which hit record highs.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, eight were in positive territory, with materials and technology seeing the strongest gains.

Johnson & Johnson led the healthcare sector’s 0.6 percent advance after beating analysts profit and revenue estimates.

Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc dipped 0.8 percent as the investment bank reported better-than-expected earnings and announced David Solomon would replace outgoing CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

UnitedHealth Group Inc weighed heaviest on the Dow, its shares down 2.7 percent as the largest U.S. health insurer reported higher-than-expected quarterly medical costs.

Netflix Inc regained ground after falling more than 14 percent following the streaming services company’s reported shortfall in second-quarter subscriber additions.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.48-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.49-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 71 new highs and 43 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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