Wall Street's main indexes gained Wednesday as investors turned more optimistic about rate cuts from the Federal Reserve early next year, after data showed further signs of a cooling jobs market.
Providing more evidence of labor market weakness following the drop in job openings on Tuesday, the ADP National Employment report showed private payrolls increased by 103,000 jobs in November, below economists' expectation of 130,000.
"This is basically what markets are looking for: weaker labor growth would reduce the threat of inflation," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities.
Optimism about peaking interest rates has led to a rebound in equities from their October lows, with the benchmark S&P 500 gaining nearly 9% in November, hitting its highest close of the year last week.
Traders have nearly fully priced in the probability that the central bank will hold rates steady next week and expect to see rate cuts being delivered as soon as the first quarter of next year.
Bets of a cut of at least 25 basis points in March currently stand at nearly 62%, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
At 9:36 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 79.28 points, or 0.22%, at 36,203.84, the S&P 500 was up 16.78 points, or 0.37%, at 4,584.01, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 62.92 points, or 0.44%, at 14,292.83.
"The market is beginning to level off after a few days of negative activity," Cardillo said.
Investors will get more clarity on the state of the labor market and the outlook for interest rates from November's non-farm payrolls report, due on Friday.
Most megacap stocks edged higher, with Nvidia up 1.2% after the chip designer said it was working with the U.S. government to ensure new chips for the Chinese market are compliant with export curbs.
Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors rose, with consumer discretionary and financial stocks leading the gains. Energy stocks underperformed, down 0.5% as crude prices fell.
Among other stocks, Plug Power fell 6.4%, as Morgan Stanley downgraded the hydrogen fuel cell firm to "underweight" from "equal weight" on liquidity concerns.
Tobacco giants Altria Group and Philip Morris International slipped 3.3% and 2.2%, respectively, after UK peer British American Tobacco said it will take a $31.5 billion hit from writing down the value of some U.S. cigarette brands.
Campbell Soup added 4.8% on surpassing quarterly profit expectations, helped by higher prices for its packaged meals and snacks.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.21-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.92-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 31 new lows.
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