Stocks edged higher for the third straight day Thursday after several economic reports provided more evidence of an improving economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 6 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 14,937, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged up 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,655 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) added added 9 points, or 0.3 percent, at 3,658.
The ADP National Employment report showed private employers added 176,000 jobs in August, nearly matching expectations for a gain of 180,000 jobs, while weekly initial jobless claims fell more than expected to a seasonally adjusted 323,000.
Separately, the Institute for Supply Management's read on the service sector rose more than expected in August, while factory orders fell less than had been anticipated.
Some retail stocks were among the biggest gainers in Thursday's trading.
Costco (COST) rose 2.8 percent to $114.62 after the discount store chain said revenue at stores open at least a year rose 4 percent in August, slightly faster than Wall Street expectations. Walgreen Co. (WAG) also gained after reporting a strong rise in sales last month. Shares of Walgreen rose 1.4 percent to $50.19 after reporting a 4.8 percent increase in sales.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is exiting the student loan business, saying it doesn't see meaningful growth in the private market for education loans. The New York lender will stop accepting student loan applications after Oct. 12, and focus more on auto lending and other businesses where it expects more growth.
More Stocks in the News:
Conn's (CONN), a consumer finance company, fell nearly 12 percent to $60.36 after the company reported second-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street expectations.
Louisiana-Pacific (LPX), a building-products company, rose 11 percent to $16.94 after the company said late Wednesday that it is buying Ainsworth Lumber of Canada for $1.1 billion.
Fastenal (FAST), rose 6 percent to $48.60 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after the seller of industrial and construction supplies reported a 2.5 percent jump in August net sales as well as an increase in customers.
In merger news, Otsuka Pharmaceutical agreed to buy U.S. cancer firm Astex Pharmaceuticals for $886 million while Sweden's SKF agreed to acquire Kaydon for $1.25 billion. Astex (ASTX) rose x.34 percent to $8.55 while Kaydon (KDN) jumped 23 percent to $35.54.
What to Watch Friday:
Smithfield Foods (SFD) reports corporate quarterly earnings.
The Labor Department releases employment data for August at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
It's closing day of the G20 global economic summit. Discussions are expected to focus on taxes, trade and the Fed's "tapering" and its effect on the world economy.
-Compiled from staff and wire reports.