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Stocks Edge Higher On Hope For China Stimulus

Apple was among the decliners, falling $37.05, or 6.4 percent, to $538.79. Stifel Financial analyst Aaron Rakers said the drop was in part due to comments from AT&T Mobility chief executive officer Ralph de La Vega, which suggested that smartphone activations this quarter were lagging the same period a year ago. The stock has now dropped 23 percent since closing at a record $702.10 in September.

Stocks are still up on the year, after the Federal Reserve extended its bond-buying program in September, offsetting concern that the European debt crisis was set to spread. The Dow has gained 7 percent and S&P 500 has advanced 12 percent.

"The market will hold on to its gains for the year. Given the uncertainty I don't see any compelling reasons for an increase," said Brian Gendreau, a market strategist with Cetera Financial Group, a Los Angeles-based broker. "But that could change in a blink. If there's better-than-expected news from these negotiations, the market could pop."

A Chinese government pledge to maintain policies intended to strengthen the world's second-largest economy helped raise optimism about global growth. China's Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.9 percent to 2,031.91. Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 2.2 percent higher at 22,270.91.

A private survey showed Wednesday that U.S. businesses added fewer workers in November, in part because Superstorm Sandy shut down factories, retail stores, and other companies. Payroll processor ADP said employers added 118,000 jobs last month. That's below October's total of 157,000, which was revised lower. Investors will also look to the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department Friday for more information about how the economy is doing.

Orders to U.S. factories rose modestly in October, helped by a big gain in demand for equipment that reflects business investment plans. Factory orders edged up 0.8 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That followed a 4.5 percent jump in September.

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