* Defensive sectors lead gains among 11 major S&P sectors
* P&G rises on surprise sales increase
* PayPal eyes best day in two years after results
* Dow rises 0.16 pct, S&P down 0.09 pct, Nasdaq dips 0.54 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes byline, adds NEW YORK to dateline)
By April Joyner
NEW YORK, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 stock index edged lower on Friday as strong earnings from Procter & Gamble Co were balanced by ongoing concerns about rising interest rates and geopolitical tensions denting U.S. economic growth.
Shares of Procter & Gamble jumped 8.3 percent after the consumer goods company reported a surprise rise in first-quarter sales. Procter & Gamble was one of the top boosts to the S&P 500, and its rise helped advance the S&P 500 consumer staples index 2.3 percent.
The sector, which has underperformed the broader S&P 500 this year, was set for its biggest daily percentage gain in more than two years.
“When companies like (Procter & Gamble) give good earnings and provide good guidance, that’s a good thing for the market overall,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.
Yet recent jitters regarding interest rates, trade and geopolitical issues in Italy and Saudi Arabia, which have weighed U.S. stocks this week, persisted.
The benchmark S&P 500 index slid below its 200-day moving average, a key statistical indicator of long-term price trends. Defensive sectors - utilities and real estate in addition to consumer staples - led the S&P in percentage gains, signaling caution among investors.
“There a lot of cross-currents right now, with Italy, housing weakness, interest rates,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director of institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.
U.S. home sales fell in September by the most in over two years as the housing market continued to struggle despite strength across the broader economy. Home sales have now fallen for six straight months.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.47 points, or 0.16 percent, to 25,418.92, the S&P 500 lost 2.59 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,766.19 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 40.27 points, or 0.54 percent, to 7,444.87.
Shares of PayPal Holdings Inc climbed 8.6 percent, on track for their highest one-day percentage gain in two years, after the payments company beat quarterly profit estimates.
However, shares of Honeywell International Inc erased earlier gains to trade 0.8 percent lower as the industrial conglomerate said it was seeing slower growth in China and that trade tariffs would potentially cost it “hundreds of millions” of dollars in 2019.
Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to increase 22.2 percent year-over-year for the third quarter, according to Refinitiv data. Of the 84 companies that have reported earnings so far, 78.6 percent have beaten expectations.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.22-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.18-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted eight new 52-week highs and 37 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 11 new highs and 187 new lows. (Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Shounak Dasgupta)