U.S. stocks floated higher on Wednesday as stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data and signs that officials were moving forward to prop up struggling European banks reassured nervous investors.
European finance ministers expressed a new sense of urgency about the region's financial crisis and appeared ready to prepare a plan to recapitalize banks.
The move up followed a late rally Tuesday after European officials said they would act to safeguard banks.
The deepening debt crisis in Europe has been among the biggest bearish factors for investors, along with signs a recovery in the already weak U.S. economy was stalling.
It was very clear that sentiment was extremely weak and needed some support, and they found support in news that EU officials were looking for ways to recapitalize the banks, said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.
At the same time, the day's U.S. data doesn't suggest ... that more selling is called for at this point.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 4.39 points, or 0.04 percent, at 10,813.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 2.55 points, or 0.23 percent, at 1,126.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 18.67 points, or 0.78 percent, at 2,423.49.
The U.S. private sector added 91,000 jobs in September, according to the ADP National Employment Report, topping forecasts and increasing optimism about Friday's non-farm payrolls report from the Labor Department.
Data from the Institute for Supply Management showed the U.S. services sector expanded slightly more than expected in September.
Materials, energy and industrials -- ones tied to economic growth -- were the top-performing stock sectors. The S&P materials index <.GSPM> was up 1.6 percent.
The Nasdaq outperformed the other two major indexes, led by gains in Research in Motion Ltd
Over the last six sessions, the S&P has fallen 10 percent, and on Tuesday briefly fell 20 percent from its recent high into bear market territory.
Investors who bet against the market were forced to cover short positions as equities shifted late in the session.
Big reversals late in a session are often not good predictors of direction. Since 2001, there have been nine days when the market rebounded in the last hour after a 1 percent loss. In eight of those sessions, stocks fell the next day, according to Bespoke Investment Group of Harrison, New York.
Volume at midday was 4.6 billion, with advancers beating decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by about four-to-three, while on the Nasdaq winners topped losers by about 13 to 10.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)