(By Balachander) U.S. stocks ended modestly higher as better-than-expected reports on non-farm payrolls and services sector activity weighed on the sentiment.
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.49 percent to end at 1,466.46. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.33 percent to finish at 13,435.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.04 percent to close at 3,101.66.
Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report showed 155,000 jobs were added in December and the jobless rate remained at 7.8 percent. Economists expected creation of 150,000 jobs and unemployment rate at 7.7 percent. Non-farm payrolls measures the change in the number of people employed during the previous month, excluding the farming industry.
The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 56.1 in December from 54.7 in November, while economists expected the reading to edge down to 54.2.
Stocks rallied early this week after lawmakers in Washington reached an agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts. The fiscal cliff bill, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012, was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate on Tuesday. President Barack Obama will sign the legislation that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into recession.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: AAPL, LLY, WAG, FINL, CSTR, ENDP, PRGS, ZQK, SIMG, ARAY
In corporate news, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) shed 2.78 percent. Market research firm Strategy Analytics expects Samsung Electronics to slightly extend its lead over the iPhone maker in global smartphone sales this year.
Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) gained 3.70 percent after the drugmaker guided fiscal 2013 earnings that was better than Wall Street projections.
Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) dropped 1.61 percent after the drugstore chain posted a 4.0 percent fall in December sales. Prescriptions filled at comparable stores fell 2.3 percent last month.
Finish Line Inc. (NASDAQ: FINL) retreated 8.25 percent after the retailer of athletic apparel updated its forecast for the full year following breakeven earnings per share for the third quarter as margins contracted and expenses rose.
Coinstar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSTR) fell 3.75 percent after the owner of the Redbox movie-rental kiosks said Chief Executive Officer Paul Davis will retire on March 31. The company named CFO Scott Di Valerio as its new CEO.
Endo Health Solutions Inc. (NASDAQ: ENDP) lost 4.53 percent after the company slashed its 2013 guidance below Wall Street expectations.
Progress Software Corp. (NASDAQ: PRGS) jumped 5.41 percent after the enterprise software company posted a jump in quarterly earnings on gains from sales of assets.
Quiksilver Inc. (NYSE: ZQK) surged 11.92 percent. Goldman Sachs upgraded rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral" after the company named of Andy Mooney as new chief executive.
Silicon Image Inc. (NASDAQ: SIMG) tumbled 10.85 percent after the provider of wireless and wired connectivity services lowered its revenue forecast for the fourth quarter, citing rescheduling of certain orders by a large customer.
Accuray Inc. (NASDAQ: ARAY) tumbled 20.06 percent after the maker of image-guided radiosurgery devices forecast a loss and lower revenue for the second quarter. The company also said it expects to cut 13 percent of jobs.
European markets closed in green, with Germany's DAX up 0.26 percent to close at 7,776.37. France's CAC40 gained 0.24 percent to finish at 3,730.02. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 advanced 0.70 percent to end at 6,089.84.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index added 0.35 percent to close at 2,276.99. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.82 percent to finish at 10,688.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid 0.29 percent to end at 23,331.09. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,784.08, up 0.10 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures inched up 0.12 percent to $93.03 per barrel, and natural gas futures jumped 2.53 percent to $3.28 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures fell 1.05 percent to $1,657 per ounce and silver futures retreated 1.66 percent to $30.21 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro added 0.25 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3082. The British pound lost 0.18 percent against the greenback to 1.6078, while the dollar climbed 1.02 percent against the Japanese yen to 88.1300.