NEW YORK -- Stocks closed higher for a fourth straight day on Wednesday after a report on hiring provided another encouraging sign that the economy is emerging from its winter slump.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed at a record high for the eighth time this year. The Dow Jones industrial average also rose above its record closing level during trading, but fell back and finished just short of its first all-time high of the year.
The stock market has turned higher this week after moving largely sideways for most of the year as reports have suggested that the economy is strengthening after slowing down during an unusually harsh winter. The catalyst on Wednesday was a private survey that showed that U.S. companies increased hiring at a rapid pace last month after a strong manufacturing survey a day earlier.
"In January and February we had that weather weakness and it’s now showing through that ... the underlying economy is fine," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust. "Economic expansion should continue."
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.38 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,890.90. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 40.39 points, or 0.24 percent, to 16,573. That’s just short of its record close of 16,576.66 set Dec. 31. The Nasdaq composite rose 8.52 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,276.46.
Payroll processer ADP said private employers added 191,000 jobs.
Economists are forecasting that U.S. employers added 200,000 jobs in March, according to data provider FactSet. That would be the most since November last year.
"In general, expectations for this Friday’s non-farms payrolls number have clearly risen over the last two weeks," said Gary Flam, a portfolio manager at Bel Air Investment Advisors.
There was more encour-
aging news on manufacturing Wednesday as the Commerce Department reported that orders to U.S. factories rose 1.6 percent in February, the most in five months.
Industrial companies were among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 index on Wednesday. The sector has risen 2.7 percent over the last week, as signs have emerged that manufacturing is strengthening, makes it the second-best performer of the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500.