US STOCKS-Wall St rises as financials lead before earnings

* Republican unveil new healthcare bill

* Banks due to kick off earnings season Friday

* Indexes up: Dow 0.08 pct, S&P 0.17 pct, Nasdaq 0.16 pct
(Updates to late afternoon)

By Kimberly Chin

July 13 (Reuters) – Wall Street rose modestly on Thursday
afternoon, helped by gains in financials ahead of profit reports
from several big U.S. banks Friday.

The financial index was the highest performer among
the 11 major S&P sectors, rising 0.48 percent.

Quarterly earnings kick off on Friday with three of the
biggest U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo
and Citigroup reporting results.

Analysts estimate second-quarter earnings for S&P 500
companies rose 7.8 percent from a year ago. Companies had their
best profit performance since 2011 in the first quarter,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The S&P 500 healthcare index was up 0.23 percent,
showing little reaction to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell’s unveiling of a revised healthcare bill.

“Even if this bill is passed, there will be multiple
iterations of healthcare legislation to come,” said Jamie Cox,
managing partner at Harris Financial Group.

“This is not a watershed moment like the Affordable Care
Act, where it altered the healthcare industry,” he said.

Hospital and insurer groups have been vocal against proposed
Medicaid cuts which could result in lower revenues for hospitals
like Community Health Systems Inc and Medicaid insurance
specialists like Molina Healthcare and Centene Corp

Investors are eager to move past the healthcare bill and
onto comprehensive tax reform, though Congress’s ability to
address it soon are in doubt, Cox said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16.86 points,
or 0.08 percent, to 21,549, the S&P 500 gained 4.22
points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,447.47 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 10.28 points, or 0.16 percent, to 6,271.45.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told a Senate panel on
Thursday that it would be “quite challenging” for U.S. growth to
reach a 3-percent target set by President Donald Trump.

Delta Air Lines Inc on Thursday reported a 21
percent drop in second-quarter profit because of sharply higher
operating costs, despite higher passenger unit revenue, sending
its shares down about 1.7 percent.
Target Corp rose 4.2 percent after an upbeat
second-quarter forecast. The news boosted other retailers, with
Wal-Mart up 1.4 percent and Costco edging up
0.9 percent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,462
to 1,364. On the Nasdaq, 1,721 issues fell and 1,046 advanced.
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru;
Editing by Arun Koyyur and Nick Zieminski)