U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday as much stronger-than-expected jobs data boosted optimism about the labor market and the economic recovery.

The jump in private payrolls, nearly triple forecasts, comes two days ahead of the government's more comprehensive labor report, one of the most widely watched pieces of economic data.

Financials led gains, with the S&P financial index <.GSPF> up nearly 1 percent, while the Nasdaq was the strongest among the three major stock indexes.

U.S. private employers added 297,000 jobs in December, a report by the ADP payrolls processor showed, about three times more than what economists forecast.

We've been building toward a big number ... That's pointing to a big payroll number ahead, and I think we'll get a big healthy report on Friday, said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 25.89 points, or 0.22 percent, to 11,717.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 3.94 points, or 0.31 percent, to 1,274.14. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> advanced 13.30 points, or 0.50 percent, to 2,694.55.

American Express Co was up 2.5 percent at $44.86, leading the Dow higher.

In other economic data, the Institute for Supply Management reported the services sector grew in December at its fastest pace in more than four years. For details, see

Housing stocks jumped following the data. The PHLX housing index <.HGX> rose 1.5 percent.

The government's Friday report is expected to show the economy created 140,000 non-farm jobs last month, and a rise in private payrolls of 145,000.

Among stock losers, Family Dollar Stores Inc dropped 8 percent to $45.30 after the discount chain reported first-quarter earnings that missed expectations.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)