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US: Stocks climb on strong jobs data

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks rose modestly early Wednesday after data showed much stronger US private-sector hiring in February.

Private payrolls increased an eye-popping 298,000 in the month, the biggest increase in nearly six years and beating the consensus forecast for a 180,000 rise, according to payroll services firm ADP.

The data come two days before the official US government employment report for February, which analysts expect will show a gain of 188,000 jobs.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 20,943.76, up 0.1 per cent.

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The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.2 per cent at 2,371.90, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.3 per cent to 5,852.06.

US stocks have fallen the last two sessions, a retreat seen as a consolidation after Wall Street set multiple records last week.

Analysts have expressed skepticism that President Donald Trump will succeed in quickly enacting tax cuts and other growth measures, factors that pushed the stock market higher.

Caterpillar fell one per cent after The New York Times reported that a government-commissioned report concluded the industrial giant intentionally committed tax and financial reporting fraud. Federal investigators raided Caterpillar offices last week.

Retailers Urban Outfitters and Children's Place went in opposite directions after reporting earnings, with Urban Outfitters tumbling 8 per cent and the Children's Place surging 16.8 per cent.