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S&P 500, Dow start month on strong footing, growth stocks lag

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(Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow indexes rose on Monday as a largely upbeat earnings season strengthened expectations of sustained profit growth, while the Nasdaq came under pressure from declines in some high-flying growth stocks.

With more than half of S&P 500 companies having reported so far, profits are now seen rising 46% in the first quarter, compared with forecasts of 24% growth at the start of April, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. About 87% of the companies have come also reported earnings per share ahead of analysts' estimates.

Economy-sensitive cyclical S&P 500 sectors such as financials, energy, industrials and materials outperformed sectors housing growth stocks, including technology and communication services, by early afternoon.

"We've seen a slight change in the pace of value stocks outperforming growth stocks year-to-date,' said Rod von Lipsey, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management.

"We still continue to believe that value will be a source of outperformance during increased mobility and recovery.'

The Nasdaq index fell as megacap technology stocks, including Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp, traded lower despite largely upbeat results.

The stocks have struggled to maintain the upward trajectory coming into reporting season. Chipmakers also fell, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index down 1.5%.

"The catalysts are strong for a sell-in-May strategy with the hot start to 2021,' said Jeff Carbone, managing partner for Cornerstone Wealth. "It may be time to take some profits from the strong growth sectors that have had big runs in 2021.'

Strong earnings, improving economic data, fiscal stimulus and the Federal Reserve's ultra accommodative stance have supported markets, pushing the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes to record levels last week.

Data on Monday showed U.S. manufacturing activity grew at a slower pace in April, likely constrained by shortages of inputs amid pent-up demand due to rising vaccinations and massive fiscal stimulus.

The Labor Department's non-farm payrolls data, slated to be released on Friday, is expected to show a rise in job additions in April.

At 12:39 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 276.72 points, or 0.82%, at 34,151.57, the S&P 500 was up 13.56 points, or 0.32%, at 4,194.73 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 60.69 points, or 0.43%, at 13,901.99.

Tesla Inc fell 3.3%. Industry sources told Reuters the electric-vehicle maker, under scrutiny in China over safety and customer service complaints, is boosting its engagement with mainland regulators and beefing up its government relations team.

Moderna Inc gained 4.5% after the drugmaker said it will supply 34 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to the global COVAX program.

Estee Lauder Cos Inc slid 7.5% after the cosmetics maker missed analysts' estimates for third-quarter sales.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.31-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.08-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 82 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 104 new highs and 39 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Sriraj Kalluvila

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