Stocks tiptoed higher near midday Wednesday as investors mulled reports showing signs of stabilization in the jobs market and the services sector of the economy

finance_04Stocks tiptoed higher near midday Wednesday as investors mulled reports showing signs of stabilization in the jobs market and the services sector of the economy.

 

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) gained 16 points, or 0.2%, nearly two hours into the session. The S&P 500 index (SPX) was little changed. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) added 3 points or 0.3%.

Stocks ended a choppy session little changed Tuesday as investors mulled a seesawing dollar and reports showing weakness in housing, strength in factory orders and a mixed picture for automakers.

That choppiness extended to Wednesday’s session, as investors digested the labor market reports ahead of the big monthly jobs report due out Friday.

Jobs: Two private firms released reports on the December labor market, ahead of Friday’s big non-farm payrolls report from the government.

Payroll services firm ADP said employers in the private sector cut 84,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, the smallest monthly decline since March 2008. However, economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting 75,000 cuts, on average. Employers cut 145,000 jobs in November.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that 45,094 job cuts were announced in December, down from November’s 50,349 figure. December 2009’s number was the lowest since December 2007.

On Friday, the government is expected to report no change in non-farm payrolls last month, after employers cut 11,000 in the previous month, according to a Briefing.com survey. The unemployment rate, generated by a separate survey, is expected to show that the unemployment rate rose to 10.1% from 10% in November.

Economy: The Institute for Supply Management’s services sector index rose to 50.1 from 48.7 in the previous month. Economists thought it would rise to 50.5, on average. A reading over 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

At around 2 p.m. ET, the Federal Reserve will release the minutes from the December policy meeting, in which the bankers opted to continue to hold interest rates at historic lows near zero.

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