McDonald's, Caterpillar power S&P to record

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A set of strong earnings from companies, including Caterpillar and McDonald's, lifted the Dow and drove the S&P 500 to a record high, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq was dragged lower by losses in Google parent Alphabet Inc.

Shares of McDonald's surged 5 per cent after the fast-food giant posted the biggest rise in sales at established restaurants globally in five years.

Caterpillar's shares rose 4.1 per cent after the company reported quarterly results that smashed expectations and raised its full-year outlook for the second time this year.

However, Alphabet fell 2.6 per cent, after the tech giant warned that expenses would remain high as more searches shift to mobile devices.

The S&P tech index has been the best performing sector this year and earnings from big tech companies will be closely watched to see if the rally has legs.

Amazon and Facebook, part of the high-flying"FANG" stocks, report results later this week, while Apple is due to report next week.

Earnings are expected to have climbed 8.8 per cent in the second quarter, compared with an 8 per cent rise estimated at the start of the month, according to Thomson Reuters.

Advanced Micro Devices, AT&T, Chipotle and Chubb are among the major companies that report after the closing bell.

"Investors will have a lot to chew on today as earnings results include at least 12 major companies," said Mr Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. "We look for another mixed session as the Federal Market Open Committee meeting begins and the healthcare vote comes into play."

At 9.37pm Singapore time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 133.09 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 21,646.26 and the S&P 500 was up 7.15 points, or 0.28 per cent, at 2,477.06. The Nasdaq Composite was down 13.74 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 6,397.07.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the financial index's 1.45 per cent rise leading the gainers.

The Fed kicks off a two-day meeting later in the day to discuss its monetary stance and the timing of its long-awaited balance sheet reduction.

While no rate hike is expected due to subdued inflation, the central bank's statement on Wednesday (July 26) will be parsed for clues on the pace of future rate hikes.

Investors will also be keeping an eye on a Senate vote on a healthcare bill, with lawmakers voting on whether to push forward with repealing Obamacare or perhaps abandon it entirely.