NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were higher on Wednesday after jobs data painted a sunnier employment picture and positive economic data that pushed U.S. markets to new heights over Tuesday's session continued to provide underlying support.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen commented on monetary policy in a speech delivered to the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Yellen said current monetary policy would likely remain untouched even though "pockets of increased risk-taking" exist, instead preferring regulatory tools to promote financial stability. Investors were on high alert heading into the speech, eager to pick up hints on when U.S. interest rates will rise.
U.S. factory orders in May slipped 0.5%, a wider fall than the 0.3% drop economists expected. The decline ends three months of gains achieved since February. Orders for durable goods slipped 0.9%, while non-durable goods slid 0.2%.
Data from ADP data show higher-than-expected payroll growth in the private employment sector, up 281,000 jobs in June from 180,000 in May and above economists' estimates of 205,000.
"The job market is steadily improving," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi wrote in a statement. "Judging from the job market, the economic recovery remains fully intact and is gaining momentum."
The official U.S. nonfarm payrolls report is due out Thursday, moved forward a day to account for the Independence Day holiday on Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which flirted with the 17,000-level Tuesday, was up 0.06% to 16,965.67, while the S&P 500 gained 0.06% to 1,974.39 and Nasdaq added 0.08% to 4,462.18.
European markets were mixed, though all Asian markets closed higher, bolstered by the strength in U.S. markets. Upside in Europe was restrained, though, as investors of the FTSE, CAC and DAX await Yellen's speech and more economic indicators out this morning.
Argentina has been placed on watch due to the likelihood of default on its interest payments to bondholders, Standard & Poor's said Tuesday. The firm reiterated its negative outlook on the economy's long-term health and restated its CCC+/C currency rating.
Australia's trade deficit for May unexpectedly widened 145%, seasonally adjusted, to $1.9 billion as key industries, iron ore and coal, suffer falling prices. Bloomberg economists had forecast a deficit of $200 million.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) will be on watch this session after CEO Jamie Dimon disclosed he has been diagnosed with curable throat cancer and will begin treatment shortly. Shares were slipping 1.1% to $56.93.
Rackspace (RAX) spiked 7.7% to $36.35 on reports the cloud computing specialist is in discussions to go private.
Greenbrier Cos. (GBX) stock popped 11.1% to $64.10 after surpassing analysts' earnings estimates by 29 cents, pulling in $1.03 a share in net income.
Constellation Brands (STZ) shares were also up 3.2% to $91.22 after generating $1.53 billion in revenue, a 127.2% year-over-year jump. Earnings of $1.07 a share beat estimates by 14 cents.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.