By Tanya Agrawal
July 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks opened little changed and held steady at record levels on Monday as investors turned their focus to a busy earnings week from big U.S. companies.
Netflix NFLX.O , which will report results after the market close on Monday, rose 0.8 percent in early trading.
Analysts estimate second-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 companies rose 8.1 percent from a year earlier. First-quarter earnings posted their best performance since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Earnings will be closely watched to see if high valuations are justified in the face of tepid inflation and a recent patch of mixed economic data.
The S&P 500 has been trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared with the long-term average of 15 times.
"The U.S. market isn't cheap right now," said Phil Guarco, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
"Earnings are going to take an important role. We're in a situation where the corporate profits and the profits they are going to deliver in the future will be of keen interest."
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 3.02 points, or 0.05 percent, at 6,315.48.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the telecommunications index's .SPLRCL 0.28 percent rise leading the advancers.
The financial sector .SPSY led the laggards with a 0.43 percent fall after results and forecasts on Friday by big banks such as JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) JPM.N , Citigroup (NYSE:C) C.N and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) WFC.N failed to excite investors.
The Dow and the S&P hit record highs on Friday after weak economic data dulled prospects of more interest rate hikes this year.
Last week, investor sentiment got a boost after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said future rate hikes could be gradual in the face of persistently low inflation. The Fed will meet next on July 25-26.
Shares of BlackRock BLK.N fell 3 percent after the world's biggest asset manager's quarterly profit came in below expectations. Cable BGC.N jumped 7.2 percent after the cable manufacturer announced on Sunday a review of strategic alternatives that could include a potential sale of the company. issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,329 to 1,213. On the Nasdaq, 1,340 issues fell and 1,032 advanced.
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