March 31, 2017 / 3:34 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Wall St flat as investors lock in strong quarterly gains

* FMC jumps on asset deal with DuPont

* Utilities lead S&P sectors

* Dow down 0.16 pct, S&P down 0.01 pct, Nasdaq up 0.06 pct (Adds details, comments, updates prices)

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Friday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average firmly on course to book their biggest first-quarter gains in four years.

Wall Street has hit a series of record highs following the election of President Donald Trump on bets that he would introduce tax cuts and boost infrastructure spending. The rally has also benefited from a raft of robust economic data.

The S&P is on track to gain 5.7 percent and the Dow 4.7 percent for the quarter ending Friday, their biggest first-quarter gains since 2013.

However, investors appeared to be a little cautious heading into the new quarter amid lofty valuations and doubts about Trump’s ability to deliver on his ambitious agenda.

“We’re really only about 1 percent below the record high again, so valuations are starting to creep higher,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab & Co Inc.

“If earnings reports come in as expected, then they will catch up with the valuations, if they don’t then I think the market will start to pull back.”

First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The index is trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months against its long-term average of 15.

Utilities and real estate - defensive plays of the S&P 500 - outperformed the other major sectors.

At 10:55 a.m. ET (1455 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 33.91 points, or 0.16 percent, at 20,694.58, the S&P 500 was down 0.23 points, or 0.01 percent, at 2,367.83 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 3.28 points, or 0.06 percent, at 5,917.63.

Shares of FMC Corp were the biggest gainers on the S&P, up 14.7 percent after the company agreed to buy DuPont’s crop protection business and sell its health and nutrition unit to DuPont. DuPont’s shares were down 0.6 percent was the top stock on the S&P and the Nasdaq, with a 0.5 percent gain.

U.S.-listed shares of Blackberry were up 13.8 percent at $7.91 after the company reported fourth-quarter profit above expectations and said it expected to be profitable on an adjusted basis in 2018.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,556 to 1,168. On the Nasdaq, 1,328 issues rose and 1,253 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed eight 52-week highs and one low, while the Nasdaq recorded 56 highs and 10 lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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