Wall Street gains on signs of economic growth


Stocks rose on Wednesday after stronger-than-expected employment and service-sector data in the United States, but a gloomier outlook in China and Europe weighed on commodity prices and hit energy and materials shares.

Data showed growth in the U.S. services sector picked up in September, defying economists' expectations for a slight decrease, while the private sector added more jobs last month than forecast. The data comes ahead of the closely watched monthly U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

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"China is slowing down, and we are as well, but we still have growth," said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago. "The real question is: 'Does Europe drag China down and us with it?'"

The S&P's consumer discretionary sector index climbed 0.9 percent. It was the best-performing S&P 500 sector, helped by stocks like Amazon , which rose 1.2 percent to $253.53, and homebuilders like PulteGroup , which gained 5.5 percent to $16.41.

But the price of crude and metals fell, pressuring stocks in the energy and basic materials sectors, after the euro zone looked unable to dodge a recession based on a reading of purchasing managers indexes last month and China's slowdown looked likely to extend to a seventh quarter.

The S&P energy index fell 0.7 percent. Chevron Corp was the biggest drag on the Dow industrials, falling 0.7 percent to $117.19. Exxon Mobil shed 0.1 percent to $91.65.

In the wider markets, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.92 points, or 0.35 percent, at 13,529.28. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 7.48 points, or 0.52 percent, to 1,453.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 19.75 points, or 0.63 percent, to 3,139.79.

The S&P 500 ended September with its fourth-straight month of gains, adding roughly 11 percent since the end of May.

"The market has lifted meaningfully since June 1st, and it has taken the last couple of weeks to consolidate those gains," said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Cincinnati. "I think it will be another day of flat to slightly down price action."

Best Buy shares gained 4 percent to $17.65 as founder Richard Schulze and at least four private equity firms started examining its books, in early steps toward what could become an $11 billion buyout.

Shares of Family Dollar Stores rose 4.1 percent to $68.73 after the discount chain posted a higher quarterly profit.

Monsanto shares fell 1.3 percent to $89.35 after the agribusiness group posted a fourth-quarter loss during a seasonally sluggish sales period.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)