August 4, 2017 / 3:27 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Wall St higher after strong July employment report

* July nonfarm payrolls up by 209,000 vs. est. 183,000

* Average hourly earnings rise 0.3 pct, in line with est.

* Unemployment rate falls to 4.3 pct from 4.4 pct in June

* Indexes up: Dow 0.09 pct, S&P 0.13 pct, Nasdaq 0.16 pct (Adds details, changes comment, updates prices)

By Tanya Agrawal

Aug 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were off their highs in late morning trading on Friday and the Dow was on track to close higher for the ninth straight day after data showed U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in July.

The Labor Department report showed nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 jobs last month, above the 183,000 rise expected by economists polled by Reuters.

June’s employment gain was revised up to 231,000 from the previously reported 222,000.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in June, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent.

The strong jobs report is likely to clear the way for the Federal Reserve to announce a plan to start shrinking its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio in September, and could strengthen its case to raise rates for the third time this year in December.

Chances of a rate hike by the end of the year increased to 50 percent from 46 percent after the release of the data, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

“It’s encouraging to see average hourly earnings come in line after falling the previous month,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve.

“I do think it (validates the Fed). Our expectations continue to be that we’ll see a measured, moderate, deliberate reduction of the balance sheet and we’re likely to see one more rate hike in the latter part of the year.”

At 10:59 a.m. ET (1459 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 19.73 points, or 0.09 percent, at 22,045.83 and the S&P 500 was up 3.32 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,475.48.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 10.19 points, or 0.16 percent, at 6,350.53.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the financial index’s 1.02 percent rise leading the advancers.

The utilities and consumer discretionary sectors led the decliners and capped gains.

Shares of Viacom slumped 12.97 percent after the company forecast a low single-digit dip in sales. The stock was among the top drags on the Nasdaq.

Walt Disney was down 1.59 percent and was the top drag on the Dow and the S&P.

A strong earnings season has helped allay concerns about stretched valuation even as the S&P trades at a pricey 18 times expected earnings, compared with its 10-year average of 14.

Analysts expect earnings of S&P 500 companies to have risen 11.8 percent, while projecting a 9.2 percent rise in earnings for the September quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Yelp jumped 26.97 percent after the company said it would sell its Eat24 business to Grubhub for $287.5 million and reported a better-than-expected quarterly revenue. Grubhub was up 8.93 percent.

GoPro rose 16.95 percent, while Weight Watchers was up 26.72 percent after well-received quarterly earning reports.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,499 to 1,245. On the Nasdaq, 1,542 issues rose and 1,130 fell. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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