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Stocks Lift Ahead of Jobs Report

Stocks in this article: SEPR COST

(Updated with stock prices.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks in New York moved modestly to the upside Thursday, as investors shook off mixed data to focus on Friday's unemployment report.

The major indices ended near their highs of the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 63.94 points, or 0.7%, to 9344.61, while the S&P 500 tacked on 8.49 points, or 0.9%, to 1003.24. The Nasdaq Composite added 16.13 points, or 0.8%, to 1983.2.

Financials did particularly well, with the KBW Bank index rising 2.5%, and Citigroup (C) and UBS (UBS) gaining 4.6% and 5%, respectively.

There was news aplenty with a rebound in Chinese stocks , some expectation-topping retail sales, and mixed economic data , but Wall Street stayed relatively focused on Friday's jobs report.

"There's a lot of caution out there that says let's not get ahead of our headlights, it certainly keeps things on the conservative side and keeps people from taking long positions," says Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at HIS Global Insight.

Some of that caution shined through in gold, which rose to $999.50 an ounce as investors migrated to safety and bet on a weakening dollar, sending metals stocks higher.

Expectations are for a slight increase in the unemployment rate to 9.5% from 9.4% and a decrease of 225,000 in nonfarm payrolls, an improvement from the 247,000 decline the month prior.

"Tomorrow's numbers will just lend more credence to the fact that we are experiencing a recovery, but where the jobs are not forthcoming," says Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist for Prudential Annuities, adding that this is not unusual.

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