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US stocks up ahead of ECB meeting; new S&P 500 record

US stocks rose on Wednesday, pushing the S&P 500 to a record close, following mixed economic data a day ahead of the closely-watched meeting of the European Central Bank.

NEW YORK: US stocks rose on Wednesday, pushing the S&P 500 to a record close, following mixed economic data a day ahead of the closely-watched meeting of the European Central Bank.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 3.64 points (0.19 per cent) to 1,927.88, nearly three points above Monday's record close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 15.19 points (0.09 per cent) to 16,737.53, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 17.56 points (0.41 per cent) to 4,251.64, helped by a 1.1 percent gain in Apple, its biggest component.

Stocks treaded in negative territory after early US economic data showed a drop in private-sector job creation in May and a jump in the trade deficit in April to a two-year high.

But they turned higher after the Institute for Supply Management said services sector activity surged in May.

The US Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report was generally positive, saying all 12 districts of the country saw increasing economic activity in recent weeks.

Investors were girding for the ECB to unveil major stimulus actions on Thursday. Analysts said there is a possibility the market will be disappointed if the measures are less aggressive than expected.

Investors are waiting "for hopefully more action than talk from (ECB president) Mario Draghi," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

Dow member UnitedHealth Group rose 0.8 per cent after announcing a 34 per cent increase in its quarterly divided and the renewal of its share repurchase programme.

General Motors jumped 3.6 per cent on news that chief executive Mary Barra will hold a news conference Thursday to update the ignition-switch recall. GM is expected to release an internal report on why it took so long to recall the vehicles.

Japan's Dai-ichi Life Insurance announced it was buying US insurer Protective Life for US$5.7 billion. Dai-ichi said the deal was aimed at broadening its overseas business beyond Asia by entering the world's biggest market for insurance sold to consumers.

Protective Life shot up 18.1 per cent. Other insurers also gained, including Prudential Financial (+2.4 per cent), Met Life (+3.0 per cent) and Dow component Travelers Companies (+1.4 per cent).

Drugstore chain Walgreens jumped 4.2 per cent after reporting that May sales rose 6.0 percent compared with the year-ago period.

Bond prices fell. The 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.61 per cent from 2.59 per cent on Tuesday, while the 30-year increased to 3.44 per cent from 3.43 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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