Stocks rose on Wednesday as another round of soft economic data supported the growing belief the Federal Reserve will take new steps to stimulate growth.

The S&P 500 has risen in seven of the past eight sessions by nearly 9 percent, led by sectors tied to economic growth, reflecting the belief the Fed will once again attempt to provide stimulus when it meets in late September. For the month, the S&P is down 5.5 percent.

Minutes from the most recent Fed policy makers meeting, released on Tuesday, indicated several policymakers had favored more monetary easing, encouraging investors to dive back into equities.

What really started things was when they announced the meeting was going to meet for two days instead of one, and people are waiting to see what it's going to be, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

But we don't know, so it's tough to discount it too much, but I think you are going to get something.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last week, at an annual Fed conference in Wyoming, said that the U.S. central bank's scheduled meeting in September would run for two days instead of the planned one to mull options for additional monetary stimulus.

Industrial stocks were among the top gainers Wednesday, with the S&P industrials index <.GSPI> up 1.2 percent. Caterpillar Inc was up 3 percent at $92.48, and Honeywell International gained 1.7 percent to $48.08.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 75.76 points, or 0.66 percent, at 11,635.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> climbed 9.27 points, or 0.76 percent, at 1,222.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 10.44 points, or 0.41 percent, at 2,586.55.

In the latest economic data, factory activity in the U.S. Midwest slipped to its lowest level since November 2009, though the figures still pointed to growth in the sector.

In a separate report, U.S. private sector job growth slowed in August for the second straight month, with 91,000 positions added. The Labor Department's much-anticipated August nonfarm payrolls report is set to be released on Friday.

Stocks pulled back from earlier highs after the Obama administration on Wednesday filed to block AT&T Inc's $39 billion proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom due to anti-competitive concerns.

AT&T shares slumped 4.9 percent to $28.18. The S&P Telecommunications index <.GSPL> dropped 2 percent.

New orders for U.S. factory goods rose more than expected in July as demand for transportation equipment surged, pointing to some resilience in manufacturing at the start of the third quarter.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)