US STOCKS-Wall St higher after strong payrolls data
* Feb nonfarm payrolls increase 242,000
* HP Enterprise up after strong results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.38 pct, S&P 0.41 pct, Nasdaq 0.39 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street drifted higher on Friday, after swinging between gains and losses, as data showing strong employment gains last month was tempered by a drop in wages and hours worked.
Gains by energy and materials stocks pushed the S&P 500 above 2,000 and the Dow over 17,000 for the first time since Jan. 6, as data further highlighted that the economic recovery was gaining momentum.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 242,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. However, lower wages and hours worked kept a lid on inflation, a key factor in the Federal Reserve's decision to raise rates.
The Fed has targeted a 2 percent annual inflation rate as a precursor to a sustained rise in interest rates.
"The number was strong enough to worry investors about the Fed's desire to move again in March, and yet was not so strong to put on the table a higher-than-a-coin-toss probability that it occurs in March," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia. Continuación...