NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The S&P 500 recovered from a five-day losing streak as oil prices steadied after days of heavy losses. Equities had suffered deep selloffs over the first three trading sessions of 2015.
The S&P 500 was up 0.91%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.74%, and the Nasdaq added 0.97%.
Domestic crude oil inventories posted a surprise drop of 3.1 million barrels last week compared to a decline of 1.8 million a week earlier. Economists had expected inventories to tick up 0.9 million barrels. Earlier in the week, crude plummeted below $50 a barrel, its lowest point since early 2009. West Texas Intermediate crude is at more than half its mid-summer peak as global oil suppliers showed reluctance to cut production levels even as demand faltered. WTI crude was up 2.3% to $49.03 a barrel by midmorning on Wednesday.
The private sector added 241,000 jobs to payrolls in December, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Economists had expected 235,000 jobs to have been added over the month. The latest figures further underline recent strength in a tightening job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the nonfarm payrolls report for December on Friday.
The U.S. trade balance narrowed by a wider margin than expected to a deficit of $39 billion in November from a revised $42.2 billion a month earlier. Economists had expected a deficit of $41.5 billion.
"All of the narrowing was due to the effects of the lower oil price and a 15% month-on-month plunge in the volume of oil imports, to its lowest level since 1994," said Capital Economics senior U.S. economist Paul Dales in a note. "The more recent drop in oil prices will soon reduce the trade deficit by a further $5bn or so, to take it to a five-year low of $34bn."
All major European markets were more than 1% higher on the latest eurozone inflation data which could push the European Central Bank to introduce quantitative easing measures. Consumer prices across the region fell by 0.2% in December, down from a 0.3% reading in November. It marks the first time consumer prices have fallen since 2009.
Separately, 12 have been confirmed dead after three gunmen took siege of satirical newspaper Charlie Hedbo headquarters in Paris. French comic artist Jean Cabut and two police officers have been identified as victims. France's President Francois Hollande has labeled the shooting a "terrorist attack."
Stateside, the key piece of news Wednesday will be the Federal Reserve's release of the minutes from its December meeting at 2 p.m. EST. At that meeting, the central bank promised to be "patient" in determining when to raise interest rates. Analysts are anxious to gauge the sentiment of each committee member and decipher potential clues as to when a rate hike could occur.
"We will be looking for details into the, no-doubt, heated discussion over the word 'patient' and the implications for the timeline for liftoff," said Lindsey Piegza, Sterne Agee's chief economist, in a note.
J.C. Penney (JCP) shares were surging more than 15% after the retailer reported a 3.7% increase in holiday sales over November and December.
In earnings Wednesday, Monsanto (MON) beat first-quarter earnings estimates, sending shares more than 1% higher, though a warning of an expected 5% to 10% fall in second-quarter earnings limited upside potential. Shares of food retailer Supervalu (SVU) were up nearly 2% after revenue surged in its third quarter and identical store sales jumped 6.9%.
Joy Global (JOY) was moving lower on a downgrade to "hold" from KeyBanc with analysts expecting cuts to mining capital expenditures this year to stunt order growth to the maker of industrial machinery.
Long-suffering teen retailer Wet Seal (WTSL) announced it will close 338 stores, or around 66% of its locations, effective Wednesday. The closures will result in layoffs of nearly 3,700 full- and part-time workers. Shares were up 40%.
Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) was up 4.7% after partnering with Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS) to sell soda capsules in its cold-drink machines in development. Keurig has plans to branch out from its traditional coffee-pod machines into the domain of SodaStream's (SODA) at-home carbonated beverage market.
-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.