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US STOCKS-Wal-Mart, tech stocks lead Wall St gains

* Wal-Mart hits record high after results, boosts staples index

* Traders await vote on U.S. tax bill

* VIX posts first fall in six days

* Indexes up: Dow 0.86 pct, S&P 0.90 pct, Nasdaq 1.38 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes marched higher on Thursday, driven by gains in Wal-Mart and technology shares, while investors awaited a vote on the Republican tax bill.

Wal-Mart surged as much as 9.10 percent to hit a record high of $98.01 after reporting U.S. same-store sales that beat expectations on hurricane-related purchases and soaring online sales.

Cisco soared 6.3 percent after the company's profit forecast came in above estimates, boosting the S&P technology index.

Gains in the session put the S&P and the Dow on course for their biggest percentage rise in more than two months.

"The bull market is still intact. Good earnings and strong economic data are what stocks care about," said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

"While tax debate is an important catalyst, it's not the only catalyst that moves market."

The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress is approaching a major test of its ability to overhaul tax code, as lawmakers prepare for their first full-scale vote on sweeping tax legislation.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox News he was confident his chamber had the votes to pass its version of the plan. A vote was expected early on Thursday afternoon.

The CBOE Volatility index, Wall Street's fear gauge, posted its first decline in six days.

At 12:30 p.m. ET (1630 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 200.67 points, or 0.86 percent, at 23,471.95, the S&P 500 was up 22.97 points, or 0.90 percent, at 2,587.59 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 92.31 points, or 1.38 percent, at 6,798.52.

Nine of the 11 major S&P indexes were higher, led by gains in consumer staples. Utilities and energy sectors were the only laggards.

Folgers coffee maker J M Smucker rose nearly 10 percent as its sales and profit topped analysts' forecasts.

Viacom shares slipped 4.10 percent after the MTV owner said it expected high single-digit declines in revenue from U.S. cable TV operators and online distributors in the first half of 2018.

Best Buy fell 4.71 percent as same-store sales came in below estimates, hurt by a late launch of iPhone X.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,279 to 583. On the Nasdaq, 2,309 issues rose and 550 fell. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)