Dow Poised to Build on Record Highs

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The Dow was set to continue rising after it surged into record territory in the prior session as traders cheered a stronger-than-expected report on the U.S. labor market.

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As of 8:20 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 61 points to 14292, S&P 500 futures gained 7.5 points to 1545 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.8 points to 2805.

After hitting its bear-market low of of 6547.05 in March 2009, the blue-chip average has roared 118% higher and into uncharted territory. The broader, and more closely-watched, S&P 500 still has 1.6% to go before hitting the record high of 1565.15 that it logged in October 2007.

The focus was anticipated to turn to the U.S. labor market Wednesday. The ADP National Employment Report showed the U.S. private sector added 198,000 jobs in February, more than the 170,000 jobs expected. The jobs market has been perking up in recent months as the broader economy has improved, but it still remains far from normal. 

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"The job market remains sturdy in the face of significant fiscal headwinds," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which compiles the ADP report, said. "Businesses are adding to payrolls more strongly at the start of 2013 with gains across all industries and business sizes."

The all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is on tap for Friday. It is forecast that the economy added 160,000 jobs in February, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.9%. 

Later in the day, the Commerce Department releases its latest figures on the manufacturing sector. Factory orders are forecast to have dropped 2.2% in January from December. In the afternoon, the Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book report, which is an anecdotal look at how the economy was faring across the central bank's 12 districts. 

In commodities, oil priced drifted lower. The benchmark U.S. contract slipped 18 cents, or 0.18%, to $90.66 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.33% to $3.159 a gallon. Gold rose 80 cents, or 0.06%, to $1,576 a troy ounce. 

In corporate news, the European Union fined Microsoft (MSFT) $732 million for not offering consumers sufficient choice in Web browsers on its Windows operating system.

Citigroup slashed its rating on J.C. Penney (JCP) to "neutral" from "buy" and cut its price target $7 to $15. Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ) said it would form a joint venture with SharePost to form a marketplace for private companies. 

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.44% to 2695, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.3% to 6451 and the German DAX rallied 1% to 7947. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 2.1% to 11932 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 1% to 22778.

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