(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended higher following better-than-expected reports on private sector employment and service-sector activity.
The S&P 500 Index added 0.36 percent to finish at 1,450.99. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.09 percent to end at 13,494.61. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.49 percent to close at 3,135.23.
On the domestic economic front, the ADP National Employment report showed the U.S. private sector added 162,000 jobs in September, down from a revised 189,000 in August, yet topped expectations for an addition of 143,000 jobs. The keenly-watched weekly jobless claims data and Labor Department's non-farm payrolls data are due out on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector in the U.S. expanded more than expected for the month of September. According to the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) non-manufacturing index, service sector activity rose to 55.1, up from 53.7 percent in August, also surpassing economists' expectations of a reading of 53.2. A reading above 50 indicates sector expansion.
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In European news, data from Markit showed the eurozone's private sector contracted at a slower-than-expected rate in September, hitting a four-month low.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: HPQ, PCS, MON, FDO, BBY, SPN, PBTH, XRTX, RIGL,VRNG, BIOL
In corporate news, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) plunged 12.96 percent after the world's largest seller of personal computers forecast earnings for 2013 below market expectations.
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MetroPCS Communications Inc. (NYSE :PCS) slumped 9.80 percent after the wireless broadband mobile communications company agreed to merge with Germany-based Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile U.S.A unit. MetroPCS shareholders will receive $1.5 billion in cash as part of the transaction.
Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) retreated 2.18 percent after the seeds and genomics company reported a wider-than-expected loss for the fourth quarter amid a 6 percent drop in sales and guided 2013 earnings below market projections.
Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE: FDO) rose 3.88 percent after the operator of self-service retail discount stores posted earnings and sales growth for the fourth quarter, matching market expectations, amid stronger sales of lower-margin consumables.
Best Buy Co. (NYSE: BBY) gained 4.66 percent after Reuters reported that the retailer's founder and at least four private-equity firms are examining the company's finances.
Superior Energy Services Inc. (NYSE: SPN) declined 5.99 percent after the provider of specialized oil-field services forecast third-quarter earnings below market expectations.
PROLOR Biotech Inc. (NYSEAMEX: PBTH) added 4.55 percent after the company said it has received a notice of allowance for a new patent for its long-acting CTP-enhanced human growth hormone (hGH-CTP).
Xyratex Ltd. (NASDAQ: XRTX) tumbled 11.26 percent after the data storage-systems company's quarterly results trailed Wall Street projections.
Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: RIGL) shed 8.21 percent after the company priced its public offering of 13.68 million shares at $9.50 each, a discount of 8 percent to the stock's previous closing price.
Vringo Inc. (AMEX: VRNG) shares jumped 37.54 percent after a federal judge reportedly ordered settlement discussions with Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) over pending patent litigation.
BIOLASE Inc. (NASDAQ: BIOL) spiked 35.55 percent after the maker of dental lasers said it received 510(k) clearance from health regulators in the United States and Europe for its EPIC 10 diode soft tissue laser.
European markets closed on a mixed note amid worries over Spain. Germany's DAX added 0.22 percent to close at 7,322.08. France's CAC40 fell 0.24 percent to finish at 3,406.02. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.28 percent to end at 5,825.81.
Among Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.45 percent to end at 8,746.87. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.23 percent to close at 20,888.28. India's BSE Sensex finished at 18,869.69, up 0.24 percent. China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index is closed for a public holiday.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures dropped 4.26 percent to $87.98 per barrel, and natural gas futures shed 3.34 percent to $3.413 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures added 0.26 percent to $1,780.2 per ounce, and silver futures fell 0.08 percent to $34.64 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro dipped 0.15 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2900. The British pound retreated 0.38 percent against the greenback to 1.6072, while the dollar advanced 0.44 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.5000.