S&P, Nasdaq enjoy boost from big tech firms, Dow dips

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By Devik Jain, Shreyashi Sanyal and Sinéad Carew

Oct 18 (Reuters) - The S&P and Nasdaq closed higher on Monday with boosts from the highest-profile technology and communications companies while investors eyed product news from Apple Inc AAPL.O and appeared optimistic about the third-quarter earnings season.

After a weak start following disappointing economic data from China, the S&P and Nasdaq had left their troubles behind by late morning with gains in FAANG stocks - Facebook Inc FB.O , Apple, Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O , Netflix Inc NFLX.O , Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Google - as well as Microsoft Corp MSFT.O .

In technology, Apple jumped higher after it caused a stir with the unveiling new Mac laptop computers with more powerful processor chips.

Facebook shares, under pressure recently, rose sharply on Monday with some positive reports out including its plans to create 10,000 jobs in Europe to help build the so-called metaverse - an online world.

With just a small minority of companies having reported quarterly results so far, investors were hopeful for some good news in the days and weeks ahead.

"You're going to get a heavier slate of earnings reports this week from a diverse set of industries," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, adding, "the path of least resistance remains higher going into earnings season for large-cap tech."

Based on the latest available data, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 35.75 points, or 0.1%, to 35,259.01, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 15.01 points, or 0.34%, to 4,486.38 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 124.47 points, or 0.84%, to 15,021.81.

Forecast-beating results from big U.S. lenders last week had set a positive tone for third-quarter earnings season, with analysts expecting S&P 500 earnings to show a 32% rise from a year ago, according to Refinitiv data.

The solid start likely helped investors shrug off uneasiness from earlier in the day after China recorded its slowest pace of economic growth in a year for the third quarter, hurt by power shortages and wobbles in the property sector.

Among the S&P's top boosts during the session were Tesla Inc TSLA.O ahead of its earnings report this week.

In S&P industry sectors technology .SPLRCT was the top boost during the session followed by consumer discretionary .SPLRCD , which was boosted Amazon and communications services .SPLRCL , was helped Facebook.

Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N , Netflix, Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and oilfield services company Baker Hughes Co BKR.N are also due to report quarterly results this week.

But while mega tech gainers were strong enough to boost the S&P and the Nasdaq, optimism was not widespread with roughly a handful of industry sectors still in the red late in the session.

And Walt Disney Co DIS.N was declining during the session after Barclays downgraded the media giant's stock to "equal weight" from "overweight."

Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru Editing by Arun Koyyur and Matthew Lewis

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