Alphabet, Amazon keep S&P afloat as Middle East tensions persist

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(Reuters) – Gains for internet giants Amazon and Alphabet helped Wall Street’s S&P 500 index steady following early losses on Monday sparked by rising tensions in the Middle East.

After opening about half a percent lower, the benchmark index was trading nearly flat by afternoon trading, helped by high-growth names such as Amazon.com Inc (O:AMZN), Alphabet Inc (O:GOOGL), Facebook Inc (O:FB) and Netflix Inc (O:NFLX).

Alphabet rose 2.2% after Pivotal Research upgraded the stock to “buy”, while Salesforce.com Inc (N:CRM) gained 3.1% after RBC named the business software provider as its “top pick”.

After ending 2019 on a strong note, Wall Street’s main indexes came off record highs as Friday’s U.S. airstrike in Baghdad raised the threat of a new conflagration in the Middle East.

“The best way to describe it (Monday’s market move) would be tentative, because the markets are down very modestly given the geopolitical turmoil,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW) in Austin, Texas.

“Historically these type of things don’t cause long-term impact on the market, but it depends on how severe it gets and how long it lasts.”

At 1:13 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was down 28.81 points, or 0.10%, at 28,606.07, the S&P 500 (SPX) was up 2.26 points, or 0.07%, at 3,237.11 and the Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) was up 21.24 points, or 0.24%, at 9,042.01.

Investors sold some of 2019’s star performers including chipmakers. The Philadelphia semiconductor index (SOX), which surged about 60% last year, was down 1.2%.

Big lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:JPM), Bank of America Corp (N:BAC) and Morgan Stanley (N:MS), were down between 0.1% and 0.5%, as U.S. Treasury yields fell.