* Healthcare sector on pace for 7th day of gains
* Labor data encouraging; Friday's payrolls data next
* Apple drops on Goldman price target cut
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.13 pct, Nasdaq 0.18 pct (Updates to late afternoon)
By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, June 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Thursday as another positive day for healthcare shares countered declines in tech and energy names and investors girded for the payrolls report on Friday.
Investors are evaluating economic data to determine whether the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates as soon as its June 14-15 meeting.
Data on Thursday showed U.S. private employers increased hiring in May and new applications for jobless benefits fell last week, further boosting the economic outlook for the second quarter. The more comprehensive May non-farm payrolls report is due on Friday.
The S&P 500 recovered from earlier losses as oil prices rebounded.
"The fact that the market today, as well as yesterday, has been able to come back after being on the downside and grind its way back, to me it shows there isn't a lot of conviction to be really dumping stocks right now prior to the Fed and earnings coming out in the next six weeks, and I think that's positive," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.
The Dow Jones industrial average was rising 26.29 points, or 0.15 percent, at 17,815.96, the S&P 500 was gaining 2.74 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,102.07 and the Nasdaq Composite was adding 8.81 points, or 0.18 percent, at 4,961.07.
The Nasdaq was on pace to rise for a seventh straight day.
The S&P 500 is up about 3 percent in 2016 after a rough start to the year amid jitters about the global economy and a volatile oil market.
On Thursday, the healthcare sector gained 1.1 percent, making it the best-performing group and putting it on track for its seventh straight day of gains. Johnson & Johnson gained 1.3 percent after saying it would acquire hair care products maker Vogue International for $3.3 billion.
Seven of 10 sectors were higher. Energy shares were the worst performers, down 0.6 percent.
Apple shares fell 1 percent and were the biggest drag on the three major indexes. Goldman Sachs analysts cut the price target on the iPhone maker, citing lower growth expectations for the smartphone industry.
Joy Global rose 18.3 percent, after the mining equipment maker reported a surprise quarterly adjusted profit. Larger rival Caterpillar was up 1.7 percent.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,701 to 1,266, for a 1.34-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,643 issues rose and 1,127 fell for a 1.46-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq recorded 70 new highs and 15 new lows. (Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Nick Zieminski)