Closing Bell: Stocks End Short Session Higher Ahead of July 4 Break

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Seth Wenig/AP

U.S. stocks ended Wednesday's shortened trading session higher as encouraging news about the nation's job market outweighed concerns about Egypt's turmoil, higher oil prices and Europe's debt crisis.

The Dow Jones industrial index (^DJI) added 56 points, more than recouping Tuesday losses, to end at 14,988, while the broader S&P 500 (^GPSC) gained a point to 1,615 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) rose 10 to 3,443.

Payroll processing firm ADP (ADP) said that U.S. employers added 188,000 jobs in June, more than the 155,000 forecast by economists, according to data provider FactSet. The government's weekly jobless claims report provided evidence that layoffs remain low and job gains steady. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to 343,000, the Labor Department said.

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Another report showed that U.S. services firms grew at a slower pace in June from May but added more jobs.

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages eased this week after last week's surge, declines that could prompt homebuyers to act quickly before rates rise further. Mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac said the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 4.29%. That's down from 4.46% last week, the highest in two years and a full point more than a month ago.

Among stocks making moves Wednesday:

  • Alcoa (AA) fell 1.2%, to $7.71 after the Citigroup (C) analyst Brian Yu reduced his second-quarter and full-year profit predictions for the aluminum producer, citing low prices for the metal.

  • AutoNation (AN) gained 71 cents, or 1.6%, to $45.27 after Credit Suisse raised its rating on the stock to "outperform" from "neutral," citing a positive outlook for the company's parts and servicing business.

  • Yahoo (YHOO) rose 2.4% to $25.59 after the Internet company announced it was buying mobile-app maker Qwiki for a reported $50 million. The deal is Yahoo's third acquisition since May when it bought blogging service Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash.

  • Boeing (BA) climbed more than 1% to $102.89 after news it delivered more planes than competitor Airbus in the first half of this year. The Chicago-based aerospace company has delivered 306 jetliners so far, including 17 787s. Boeing is playing catch-up with those deliveries because of the problems with the 787's battery earlier this year. It is aiming to deliver 60 of those planes this year.

  • Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) fell $6.05, or 8.1%, to $68.85 adding to Tuesday's 5.7 percent slump. The Chinese government is investigating the nutritional products maker for possibly violating anti-monopoly laws in its pricing of infant formula, Bloomberg News reported yesterday.

  • Shares of Honeywell International (HON) rose nearly 1% after federal regulators gave the company go-head to resume operations at a plant that helps make nuclear fuel, following a yearlong shutdown. The plant has been closed since May 2012 after the government ordered Honeywell to make the site able to withstand natural disasters.

What to watch Thursday:

  • U.S. stock and bond markets are closed for Independence Day; trading resumes Friday.

  • On Friday, all eyes will be on the latest jobs numbers, due out from the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. ET. The consensus view is that the report will show U.S. employers added 161,000 jobs in June and the nation's unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point to 7.5%.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.