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Stocks Hold Gains as Strong Data Offsets HP

"This is unquestionably positive especially for those worried the U.S. may have fallen into recession," according to a note from BTIG Economics.

Most of the sub-index components of the report showed improvement. However, the employment sub-index in the report decreased by 2.7 points to 51.1, indicating growth in employment for the second straight month but at a slower rate.

Meantime, the ADP private sector employment change report showed a rise in private payrolls in September of 162,000, down from a downwardly revised 189,000 increase in August, but ahead of the consensus view. Economists, on average, were forecasting a private payrolls increase in September of 133,000.

The FTSE 100 in London settled up 0.28% and the DAX in Germany closed up 0.22% on Wednesday. The Nikkei Average in Japan closed down 0.45% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong finished up 0.23%.

The European and Asian markets were under some pressure following data indicating that China's services sector softened markedly in September to its lowest level since November 2010, and numbers showing a deepening decline in eurozone business activity in September, which was pointing to a recession.

Eurozone retail sales inched up at a weak pace in August in the face of elevated oil prices and deepening economic uncertainties.

A successful Portuguese government bond swap auction helped sentiment earlier in the day.

"Its success is a subtle yet tangible sign that confidence in the European authorities scattered plans will ultimately payoff. Our chart reflects the confidence in a further slide in Portugal's bond yields," noted Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.

November crude oil futures slipped $3.75 to settle down $88.14 a barrel, while December gold futures rose $4.20 to settle at $1,779.80 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 1/32, diluting the yield to 1.620%. The greenback was up 0.26%, according to the dollar index.

In corporate news, Best Buy (BBY) shares got a lift on news that founder Richard Schulze and at least four private-equity firms have started examining the books of the company, the world's biggest consumer electronics chain, in what could become a potential $11 billion buyout, according to people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported. The stock finished nearly 5% higher.

Shares of MetroPCS Communications (PCS) pulled back after the company confirmed it's in talks with T-Mobile USA about a potential merger. After soaring nearly 18% on Tuesday, the stock shed 10%.

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