Wall Street closes slightly higher

S&P 500 inks a fresh closing high, as US stocks finish session stronger.

US stocks have closed out a largely directionless session higher, buoyed by the S&P 500 which struck another fresh closing high, as investors weighed a private sector reading on the jobs market.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 40.39 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 16,573.00, about three points shy of a record.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 5.38 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 1,890.90, a new closing record. The previous record, 1,885.52, was set only yesterday.

Meanwhile the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index lifted 8.42 points, or 0.20 per cent, to 4,276.46.

Ahead of official jobs numbers on Friday, a closely watched private sector jobs report showed 191,000 jobs were added in March, above last month's 178,000 but below forecasts of 200,000.

Analysts are confident Friday's jobs report will also show improvement in March, with the extent of the improvement to impact market direction.

Europe stocks, too, were largely flat, consolidating yesterday's gains despite new data showing the risk of deflation remained high.

Also having an impact on market sentiment was a speech from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, during which she warned of more years of subpar growth if policymakers fail to introduce bold policies.

Investors remain in a fairly hopeful mood following a run of economic data that, while not outstanding, is "good enough" to persuade that the economy is on a good path, Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management, said.

"There are still a few questions about the Nasdaq glamours, but there's enough in the blue chips to keep everyone very excited," Mr Blicksilver said. "The bull market is intact."

Mr Blicksilver said the surge may be enabled in part by an influx of cash at the start of the second quarter.