U.S. stocks trimmed gains but remained higher on Thursday as investors turned their focus to the monthly employment data on Friday, after better-than-expected private sector hiring pointed to strength in the labor market.
The ADP private sector employment report showed that 253,000 jobs were added in May, well above the 185,000 jobs estimated by economists polled by Reuters.
The report acts as a precursor to the much-awaited nonfarm payrolls data, due on Friday, that includes hiring in both public and private sectors.
“The ADP numbers were good today and often times, but not always, they are a good indication of the monthly jobs data,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
The market is expected to trade mostly sideways for the rest of the day as investors await Friday’s data, Frederick added.
San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said on Wednesday he sees a total of three interest rate increases for this year as his baseline scenario, but views four hikes as also being appropriate if the U.S. economy gets an unexpected boost.
Fed Governor Jerome Powell, an influential policymaker, told CNBC that he expects three rate hikes this year.
Forecasts from Fed officials suggest that a median of two more hikes are planned before the end of the year.
Traders priced in a 96 percent chance of a rate hike in the upcoming Fed meeting on June 14, and a 50 percent chance of a hike before the end of 2017, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 8.89 points, or 0.14 percent, at 6,207.40.
Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with the health .SPXHC and materials sectors .SPLRCM leading the gainers.
Deere’s (DE.N) shares were up 2.5 percent at $125.48 after the farm and construction major said it would buy privately held German road construction company Wirtgen Group for $5.2 billion, including debt.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) fell 5.6 percent to $17.76 after the company reported a steep fall in its quarterly revenue.
Palo Alto Networks (PANW.N) jumped as much as 18 percent to a more than four-month high of $139.95 after the cybersecurity company’s forecast topped expectations.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,019 to 719. On the Nasdaq, 1,681 issues rose and 934 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.
(Reporting by Sweta Singh and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)