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Stocks edge higher on jobs news, Fed survey

Trader Neil Cataniright works floor New York Stock Exchange Wednesday March 2 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Trader Neil Catania, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, March 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing slightly higher after a surprisingly strong report on hiring by private companies raised hopes that the job market may be improving.

Trading was choppy as oil prices rose to $102 per barrel.

Payroll processor ADP said companies added 217,000 jobs last month, above what analysts predicted. That raised expectations that the government’s employment report coming out Friday could show a decline in the unemployment rate.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 12,066.

The S&P 500 rose 2, or 0.2 percent, to 1,308. The Nasdaq gained 10 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,748.

Rising stocks outnumbered falling ones two-to-one on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 1 billion.

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