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Materials sector moves higher on DuPont, Nucor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Materials stocks were trading higher on Wednesday as the best performing of the 10 major S&P sectors heading into the midpoint of the session, led by gains in DuPont and Nucor Corp.

DuPont shares were moving up 4.4 percent at $68.75 after activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management, among the biggest shareholders in the company, urged it to separate its high-growth businesses from those with strong cash flows.

The advance put Dow component DuPont on track for its best performance since July 2013.

NUCOR (NUE.NY)shares were 3.8 percent higher at $57.75 after the steelmaker forecast third-quarter earnings between 70 to 75 cents a share, well above the current Thomson Reuters estimate of 61 cents a share.

While Nucor currently holds a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 18.92 versus the 12.99 average for its peers in the sector, the stock may still have room to run higher. StarMine data holds an intrinsic value of $73.21 on the stock, roughly 27 percent above its current level.

The S&P materials sector was trading 0.6 percent higher and was on track for its third straight advance.

Among smaller names in the materials sector, U.S. Steel was the best performer on the S&P MidCap 400 index, trading up 8.8 percent to $45.06 after the company said its Canadian operations, which has been a money-losing unit over the past five years, would apply for relief from creditors.

Consolidated volume of nearly 14 million for U.S. Steel was more than twice its 10-day average of 6.9 million and had already made it the most active day for the stock since July 30.

Index snapshot at 11:44 EDT:

* S&P 500 was rising 0.89 points, or 0.04 percent.

* Nasdaq Comp was gaining 5.12 points, or 0.11 percent.

* Dow industrials was adding 13.61 points, or 0.08 percent.

* Russell 2000 was adding 5.97 points, or 0.52 percent.

* S&P MidCap was adding 1.95 points, or 0.14 percent.

* S&P SmallCap was gaining 2.62 points, or 0.4 percent.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)