The main US equities barometer this month posted its best gains since March 2016 as US healthcare and financial stocks zipped higher.

The S&P 500 rallied by 3.7 per cent in February. The narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average tacked on 4.8 per cent; however, the blue-chip index halted a 12-session record setting streak on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite added 3.8 per cent in February.

Healthcare shares led the way higher, with the S&P 500 sector soaring 6.3 per cent. Financials also performed well, notching gains of 5 per cent.

For healthcare, the gains represent a catch-up. The sector was one of the weakest performers from the election to the end of January 2017, rising just 3.1 per cent compared with a 6.6 per cent advance for the S&P 500.

Indications that changes to the Affordable Care Act that have been promised by US President Donald Trump may come slower than previously expected have helped to provide a boost to the sector, according to analysts and portfolio managers.

The weakest performer of February was the energy sector, which slid by 2.7 per cent even as the price of oil remained in the $55 a barrel range. Companies in the sector had a tough fourth-quarter earnings season on the aggregate, with just under half of the groups missing per-share profit estimates, according to FactSet data.

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