* June nonfarm payrolls increase less than expected
* Average hourly earnings unchanged
* Eight of the 10 S&P sectors up
* Indexes up: Dow 0.22 pct, S&P 0.23 pct, Nasdaq 0.04 pct (Updates to open)
By Sweta Singh
July 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday after data showed job growth slowed in June, indicating that the U.S. Federal Reserve might hold off on raising interest rates in September.
Eight of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors rose, with the utilities index leading the gains with a 1.5 percent rise.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 last month, below the 230,000 that economists polled by Reuters had expected.
“It is a slightly disappointing payroll number. If anything, it buys the Fed a little more time before the first rate hike,” said Wilmer Stith, a fixed income portfolio manager at Wilmington Trust in Baltimore.
The Fed has kept short-term rates near zero since December 2008, resulting in reduced borrowing costs for companies.
BP’s U.S.-listed shares rose 4.2 percent to $40.89 after the oil and gas producer settled damages claims from the U.S. government and five states from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for $18.7 billion.
At 10:04 a.m. EDT (1404 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average was up 38.55 points, or 0.22 percent, at 17,796.46, the S&P 500 was up 4.73 points, or 0.23 percent, at 2,082.15 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.84 points, or 0.04 percent, at 5,014.96.
HealthNet rose 15.5 percent to $75.11 after Centene Corp said it would buy the healthcare management company for $6.3 billion. Centene rose to a record high before paring all its gains to fall 3.4 percent.
Xoom Corp shares rose 21.3 percent to $25.10 after Paypal, the electronic payments division of eBay, said on Wednesday it would buy the digital money transfer provider for about $890 million. eBay shares rose nearly 2 percent.
Western Union’s shares fell 4.9 percent to $19.38 after Evercore ISI cut its rating on the stock to “hold” from “buy” and its price target to $20 from $23, citing the deal.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,745 to 1,013, for a 1.72-to-1 ratio on the upside. On the Nasdaq, 1,352 issues fell and 1,035 advanced for a 1.31-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 index showed 15 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 32 new lows. (Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)