August 9, 2018 / 3:51 PM / 4 months ago

US STOCKS-Tech stocks take Nasdaq closer to record

* Sinclair drops after Tribune ends merger deal

* Apple leads gains in tech stocks

* Booking Holdings down 5.9 pct on weak forecast

* Indexes up: Dow 0.01 pct, S&P 0.10 pct, Nasdaq 0.31 pct (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)

By Amy Caren Daniel

Aug 9 (Reuters) - The Nasdaq inched towards a record on the back of high-flying technology trio of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, while gains in the Dow and the S&P 500 were limited as energy shares fell.

The tech-heavy index was up 0.31 percent at 7,913.03, barely 0.25 percent away from hitting an all-time high.

The technology sector has been at the center of a sharp recovery in U.S. stocks since a market rout in February. The S&P is also less than half a percent shy of the record it hit in late January.

Shares of Apple rose 0.8 percent, while those of Amazon were up 0.6 percent and Microsoft 0.4 percent.

The gains come as the latest data pointed to the strength in the labor market, underscoring the health of the economy despite ongoing trade tensions.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, a Labor Department report showed.

“We have been in a tug of war between broadly positive economic conditions and the uncertainty of trade risk,” said Bill Northey, senior vice president at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Helena, Montana.

“We are in the zone of full employment and inflationary trends are continuing to firm, and that is supportive of the federal reserve removing monetary policy accommodation throughout the balance of this year.”

At 10:53 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 3.07 points, or 0.01 percent, at 25,586.82, the S&P 500 was up 3.00 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,860.70 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 24.70 points, or 0.31 percent, at 7,913.03.

The energy sector was the biggest loser, dragged down by Occidental Petroleum, the largest Permian producer, which boosted its capital expenditure.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher. The materials sector led the gains as aluminum prices rose. [nL5N1V03X4

Bookings Holdings fell 5.9 percent and weighed the most on the S&P and the Nasdaq after it forecast third-quarter profit below expectations.

Sinclair dropped 2.4 percent after Tribune Media ended its $3.9 billion deal to be acquired by Sinclair and filed suit. Tribune shares rose 2.9 percent.

Rite Aid fell 10.6 percent and was the most actively traded stock after the drug store chain and U.S. grocer Albertsons Cos agreed to terminate their merger agreement.

However, chip stocks fell after Morgan Stanley downgraded the U.S. semiconductor industry, saying upside to estimates is difficult to come by. Micron, Applied Materials and ON Semiconductor fell between 1.8 percent and 2.4 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.80-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.72-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 24 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 66 new highs and 40 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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