US STOCKS-S&P 500, Nasdaq gain on Nvidia, White House stock incentive report


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    * White House considering tax incentive to buy stocks - CNBC
    * Retail sales, industrial output data underwhelm
    * Nvidia climbs after upbeat revenue forecast
    * Indexes: Dow off 0.09%, S&P up 0.18%, Nasdaq up 0.20%

 (Updates to market close)
    By Stephen Culp
    NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 ended modestly
higher on Friday following strong earnings from Nvidia and a
report late in the session that the White House was considering
a tax incentive for Americans to buy stocks.
    Uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus epidemic and
downbeat economic data had put a damper on investor sentiment
for much of the day.
    But a CNBC report that the Trump administration could
introduce a tax incentive for people earning less than $200,000
to invest up to $10,000 in U.S. stocks gave the markets a late
    "In an election year, especially when the president is
getting backlash that the tax cut benefits only the rich,
seeking a way to democratize the stock market to low income
earners would be a popular maneuver," said Joseph Sroka, chief
investment officer at NovaPoint in Atlanta.  
    While the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed modestly higher, the
Dow lost ground.
    The three major stock averages headed into the U.S. holiday
weekend having posted their second consecutive weekly advances.
    The coronavirus, now called Covid-19, has taken 1,380 lives
and infected 63,851 people, according to Chinese authorities.*:nL4N2AE0RT
    In a recent Reuters survey of 40 economists, the respondents
see China's economy in the current quarter suffering its slowest
growth since the financial crisis, but believe the downturn will
be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.*:nL4N2AB2IE
    "The true economic implications of the coronavirus are still
unknown," Sroka said, adding "at the end of the day, earnings
matter more for the sustainability of stocks than near-term
    Indeed, of the 387 companies in the S&P 500 having reported
fourth-quarter results, 77.4% have surprised Wall Street
expectations to the upside, according to Refinitiv data.
    Analysts now see fourth-quarter earnings rising at an annual
pace of 2.6%, a striking reversal of the 0.3% decline seen on
Jan 1.
    In economic news, lackluster retail sales and industrial
production data appeared to justify the U.S. Federal Reserve's
wait-and-see stance regarding its accommodative monetary policy,
reiterated by Fed Chair Jerome Powell earlier this week in
    The Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  fell 25.23 points,
or 0.09%, to 29,398.08, the S&P 500  .SPX  gained 6.22 points,
or 0.18%, to 3,380.16 and the Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  added
19.21 points, or 0.2%, to 9,731.18.
    Seven of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 closed in the
black, with defensive real estate  .SPLRCR  and utilities
 .SPLRCU  stocks seeing the biggest gains. 
    Energy shares  .SPNY  were the biggest losers.
    NVIDIA Corp  NVDA.O  jumped 7.0% after the chipmaker's
beat-and-raise earnings report, even as it forecast a $100
million hit from the coronavirus.*:nL1N2AD26Q
    Online travel services platform Expedia Inc  EXPE.O  surged
11.0% after the online travel services company forecast strong
quarterly core earnings despite uncertainties surrounding the
Covid-19 virus.*:nL8N2ADB2D
    EBay Inc  EBAY.O  gained 2.6% after providing
better-than-expected current-quarter profit guidance.*:nL4N2AD4VN
    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a
1.11-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
    The S&P 500 posted 74 new 52-week highs and five new lows;
the Nasdaq Composite recorded 130 new highs and 60 new lows.  
    Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.60 billion shares, compared
with the 7.62 billion average over the last 20 trading days. 

 (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Tom Brown)
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