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US STOCKS-Wall Street climbs as defensive sectors jump

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* Private payrolls increase by 428,000 in August

* Nvidia climbs as analysts cheer new gaming chip

* Indexes up: Dow 0.86%, S&P 0.85%, Nasdaq 0.25% (Updates to early afternoon)

Sept 2 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 rose on Wednesday for the ninth time in the past ten sessions although defensive sectors took their turn to lead the charge after data showed U.S. private payrolls expanded last month, but at a slower-than-expected pace.

The blue-chip Dow is just about 2% below its all-time high on Feb. 12.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, now more than 20% above its pre-pandemic high, lagged on Wednesday as losses in high-flying shares of Apple Inc, Tesla Inc and Zoom Video Communications Inc weighed.

“A handful of technology stocks have been a great place to be over the last several months, but at some point you need to kind of be on the lookout for other opportunities outside of those concentrated names,” said Adam Phillips, director of portfolio strategy at EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, California.

Utilities, consumer staples and real estate, which have trailed the broader market this year, posted some of the biggest percentage gains among major S&P sectors.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have hit a series of record highs recently on high demand for tech-focused stocks and massive central bank support.

U.S. private payrolls increased last month from July, according to the ADP report, but fell short of economists’ forecast. Focus will now be on the government’s comprehensive employment report which is slated for Friday.

Investors are also hopeful that U.S. lawmakers would unveil a new fiscal coronavirus relief bill in the coming days.

At 1:06 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 247.37 points, or 0.86%, at 28,893.03, the S&P 500 was up 30.14 points, or 0.85%, at 3,556.79. The Nasdaq Composite was up 29.26 points, or 0.25%, at 11,968.92.

The Russell 1000 value index jumped 1.1%, while the Russell 1000 growth index rose 0.4%.

Nvidia Corp, the best performing S&P 500 constituent this year, gained 3.7% after several brokerages hiked their price targets on its shares, following the announcement of powerful gaming chips in collaboration with Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd .

Market experts have warned that at these elevated levels, Wall Street’s indexes are ripe for a pullback, especially in the weeks leading up to the election in November.

President Donald Trump has overtaken Democratic rival Joe Biden to stand as the favorite to win the election on Europe-based betting exchange Betfair, while in a Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll on Wednesday, 40% of registered voters supported Trump, compared with 47% who said they will vote for Biden.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and nearly matched them on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 72 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 126 new highs and 41 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)

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