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Stocks Close Higher Ahead of Jobs Report

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks tracked higher Thursday after lower claims and robust manufacturing data from across the globe strengthened confidence in the recovery ahead of a March job report due Friday that's expected to show a boost in payrolls.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 70 points, or 0.7%, to 10,927. The S&P 500 gained 9 points, or 0.7%, to 1,178, and the Nasdaq put on 5 points, or 0.2%, to 2,403.

British and Chinese manufacturing picked up last month, according to economic data released Thursday morning, and in Japan business confidence rose for the fourth consecutive quarter.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.4% and Japan's Nikkei also gained 1.4%. The FTSE in London added 1.2% and the DAX in Frankfurt rose 1.3%.

U.S. markets will be closed on Good Friday when the Labor Department delivers its March nonfarm payrolls report, but investors will be paying attention to the number, which is expected to show robust job growth of 190,000.

Confidence in estimates may have taken a hit after Automatic Data Processing's private sector report Wednesday showed continued losses during the month. Most market watchers, however, are standing by their projections for job creation. One notable exception was Goldman Sachs, which knocked expectations down to a payrolls increase of 200,000, compared with 275,000 as previously forecast.

"We believe that if there ever was a time in which ADP was most likely to be off the mark, this would be the month," said Deutsche Bank's chief U.S. economist, Joseph LaVorgna, pointing to census hires and weather.

"Census hires -- which we estimate at +75,000 -- are not captured in the ADP data, because this survey measures only private sector hiring. Second, there appears to be no weather-effect in the ADP numbers. This does not gibe with other data series, which suggest weather was a significant impediment to hiring in February," LaVorgna said, standing by projections for growth of 350,000.

Separately, UBS economist Maury Harris, also upheld estimates.

"The ADP series appears to be reliable when the trend in payrolls is steady, but less reliable when the trend is changing -- as we think it is now," Harris said. "We continue to forecast a 135,000 rise in total payrolls in March, with the headline boosted by temporary census hiring and weather effects."
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