Wall St gains on US jobs data

US weekly jobless data boosts stocks as Treasury yields rise further.

United States stocks closed with modest gains after a batch of positive economic reports, but high-yielding sectors lagged as Treasury yields rose.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 6.61 points, less than 0.1%, to 14937.48 points, but remained below the session's highs. On Wednesday, the index rose 97 points, its biggest point and percentage gain in a month.

The S&P 500-stock index rose 2.00 points, or 0.1%, to 1655.08 points.

The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 9.74 points, or 0.3%, to 3658.78 points.

A handful of better-than-expected economic reports gave benchmarks a boost.

The morning's data "suggest that the labor market's recovery remains on track," Ridgeworth Investments senior investment strategist Alan Gayle said.

"I think it was eye-catching for the market."

But stocks that offer high dividend yields, such as utilities and telecommunications shares, took a hit as the data pushed benchmark Treasury yields near the three% mark. The 10-year yield rose to settle at 2.977%. The telecom sector was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, down 0.8%, and the utilities sector shed 0.4%. The Vanguard REIT Index Fund, which tracks high-yielding real estate investment trusts, lost 1.1%.

Treasurys have been selling off on expectations the Federal Reserve will begin to roll back stimulus as early as this month as the labor market shows signs of strengthening.

Mr Gayle said he isn't too worried about the recent rise in yields.

"It looks like the economy is continuing to grow and recover," he said. "I would argue that [yields] have been unsustainably low, and some reversion to a more reasonable level makes sense."

The number of US workers applying for jobless benefits fell to 323,000 in the latest week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, below the 330,000 expected. Also on Thursday, Automatic Data Processing and Moody's Analytics reported that 176,000 new private-sector jobs were created in August, nearly matching expectations for 178,000 new jobs.

More good news came from the service sector, as the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing purchasing managers' index for August rose to 58.9 from July's 56. The index was expected to slip to 55. At the same time, factory orders for July declined by 2.4% on the month, less than the 3.4% expected.

Meanwhile, investors are looking ahead to the government's August jobs report on Friday. The Fed has said the strength of the labor market is a key driver in its decision on when to start reducing monetary stimulus.

"I don't think today's data is going to change anybody's expectations" for the timing of the Fed's pullback, but "the big question is tomorrow's nonfarm payrolls" report, said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner with brokerage firm Meridian Equity Partners Inc. Because of the shortened holiday week, "the market is going to overreact."

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.7% as the European Central Bank raised its forecast for economic growth in the region this year, but president Mario Draghi assured investors the ECB would maintain its easy-money policies. The FTSE 100 gained 0.9% as the Bank of England also left rates unchanged as expected.

Asian markets were little changed as investors awaited rate decisions from the ECB and BOE after the markets closed, and the US employment report on Friday. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average gained 0.1%, and China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2%.

The dollar rose above the ¥100 level in overnight trading for the first time since late July, and held above that level in recent trading. The dollar also gained against the euro.

Crude-oil futures rose 1.1% to settle at $108.37 a barrel. Oil prices have risen sharply in recent sessions on concerns about possible US military action in Syria. Gold futures shed 1.2% to settle at $1,373.10 a troy ounce.

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