* Wal-Mart hits near 15-month high on strong results
* Brent crude tops $50/bbl, boosting energy stocks
* Weekly jobless claims fall more than expected
* Indexes up: Dow 0.11 pct, S&P 0.15 pct, Nasdaq 0.21 pct (Adds details, changes comment, updates prices)
By Tanya Agrawal
Aug 18 (Reuters) - Wall Street was slightly higher in late morning trading on Thursday, boosted by a jump in Wal-Mart shares and higher oil prices.
Wal-Mart rose as much as 3.1 percent to a more than 14-month high of $75.19 after the retailer’s better-than-expected quarterly profit. The stock provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500.
Oil stocks rose as Brent crude went above $50 per barrel for the first time in six weeks after major producers prepared to discuss a possible freeze in output. U.S. crude was trading near $47.
Investors also weighed up minutes of the Federal Reserve’s July meeting, released on Wednesday, that showed policymakers were divided over whether to raise interest rates in the near-term.
“Yesterday’s minutes didn’t hold any major surprises for investors,” said Thomas Wilson, Managing Director of Wealth Advisory at Brinker Capital, in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
“The market has been Fed driven so far, it is going through a phase where it will pivot from the Fed to more emphasis on companies growing their revenues.”
While traders have almost completely ruled out a hike in September, they have priced in a 41.7 percent chance for a move in December - down from 45.1 percent on Wednesday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
At 11:07 a.m. ET (1507 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 20.71 points, or 0.11 percent, at 18,594.65, the S&P 500 was up 3.31 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,185.53 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 10.98 points, or 0.21 percent, at 5,239.63.
Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy index’s 0.92 percent rise leading the advancers.
Twitter fell 3.4 percent to $19.49 after Evercore downgraded the stock to “sell” from “hold”.
NetApp jumped 15.9 percent to $33.44 after it’s quarterly results beat expectations.
The S&P 500 has been higher in six of the last eight weeks and the market has touched new records on the back of better-than-expected corporate earnings, supportive monetary policy and a robust labor market.
Strong recent jobs growth and a long-awaited return of middle-wage employment are two positive signs for the labor market, New York Fed President William Dudley said on Thursday.
Data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,026 to 787. On the Nasdaq, 1,797 issues rose and 792 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 13 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 65 new highs and 17 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Savio D‘Souza)