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US stocks trade slightly higher; Oil gains
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NEW YORK (AP) — A batch of good news on the U.S. economy nudged stocks slightly higher Wednesday as major indexes flitted near record levels. Oil and gas companies climbed as the price of crude oil edged up.

ECONOMY WATCH: Payroll processer ADP said Wednesday that U.S. companies added 208,000 jobs in November, the third straight month that hiring has topped 200,000. Later in the morning, a trade group reported that its gauge of activity in the service sector climbed close to an eight-year peak last month.

BETTER VIEW: The two reports gave support to a stock market hovering near all-time highs, said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial. "It suggests that economic activity is going to be solid in the quarters ahead," he said. "That would mean we get better corporate profitability even with the stronger dollar."

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,072 as of 2:27 p.m. EST. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,898. The Nasdaq composite climbed six seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,774.

RESPONSE: Some analysts said the ADP hiring survey was an encouraging sign for the government's broader jobs survey coming out on Friday. "The biggest, most important economic statistic in the world looks like it will continue its winning streak if this morning's ADP employment report is to be believed," Christopher Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, wrote in a note to clients. "Things are better than you think. Bet big on it."

WHAT TO EXPECT: Economists forecast that the government will say employers added 225,000 jobs in November and that the unemployment rate slipped to 5.7 percent from 5.8 percent, according the financial data provider FactSet.

SHOPPING MALL: Abercrombie & Fitch's stock surged after the clothing store for teens reported that its quarterly profit topped analysts' estimates, even though sales slumped. Abercrombie gained $1.16, or 4 percent, to $29.

ENERGY: Oil prices turned higher. The price of U.S. benchmark crude rose 49 cents to $67.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That helped drive up drilling companies and other businesses that provide services to the oil and gas industry. Cimarex Energy surged 6 percent, and Diamond Offshore Drilling gained 4 percent, among the biggest gains in the S&P 500.

BONDS: Prices for U.S. government bonds were flat. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 2.29 percent.

METALS: Prices for precious metals ended mixed. Gold rose $9.30 to settle at $1,208.70 an ounce, while silver slipped 4 cents to $16.41 an ounce. Copper dipped 2 cents to $2.87 a pound.

OVER THERE: Europe's major markets were mixed. France's CAC 40 inched up 0.1 percent while Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.4 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index ended 0.3 percent higher, after briefly touching its highest level since 2007. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1 percent, and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China gained 0.6 percent.

YEN SLUMP: The dollar rose to 119.73 yen from 119.22 yen. The weakening yen, driven by the government's monetary easing aimed at stimulating the economy, is good for the nation's big exporters such as Toyota and Canon because it makes their cars and electronics cheaper overseas.