Stocks edged up slightly on Wednesday as another round of soft economic data supported a growing belief the Federal Reserve would take new steps to stimulate growth, but tech stocks struggled.

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. The S&P is on track to end August down 5.5 percent, however.

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

The market has been somewhat schizophrenic lately, but the idea of more stimulus lets you put a rosy spin on everything, said Steve Sosnick, equity-risk manager at Timber Hill/Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Our rally has quieted down since the data wasn't great this morning, and we still don't know if that kind of weakness will be enough to trigger 'extraordinary action' from the Fed.

An index of factory activity in the U.S. Midwest slipped to its lowest level since November 2009, though the figures still pointed to manufacturing growth, while a separate report showed private sector job growth slowed in August for a second straight month.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, at an annual Fed conference in Wyoming last week, 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.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 39.62 points, or 0.34 percent, at 11,599.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 4.80 points, or 0.40 percent, at 1,217.72. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 3.78 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,572.33.

Tech shares weighed on the Nasdaq, with Apple Inc off 1.6 percent to $383.72 and Nvidia Corp down 2.6 percent to $13.33.

Industrial stocks were among the top gainers on Wednesday, with the S&P industrials index <.GSPI> up 0.8 percent. Caterpillar Inc was up 1.4 percent at $91.07, and Honeywell International gained 1.2 percent to $47.88.

Joy Global Inc rose 1.6 percent to $83.70. The company agreed to sell the drilling products business of recently acquired LeTourneau Technologies to Cameron International Corp CAM.N for $375 million.

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 because of anti-competitive concerns.

AT&T shares slumped 4.3 percent to $28.35. The S&P Telecommunications index <.GSPL> dropped 1.9 percent, by far the biggest loser among S&P sectors.

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 Padraic Cassidy)