By Shashank Nayar
(Reuters) - The Nasdaq hit a record high on Wednesday after weaker-than-expected private payrolls raised hopes the Federal Reserve would keep the stimulus taps open, while a slide in energy and banking stocks held back the S&P 500 from scaling an all-time peak.
Technology stocks, which tend to benefit from a low-rate environment, were up 0.6%. Sectors considered as bond-proxies or defensive including utilities, consumer discretionary and real estate were also among the top performers, rising between 1.2% and 1.3%.
The ADP report, published ahead of the government's more comprehensive employment report on Friday, showed U.S. private employers hired far fewer workers than expected in August.
"Information on inflation with regard to jobs and wages is something that will be an important factor affecting Fed decisions rather than demand and supply side issues, which is why the Friday jobs data will set the stage for the Fed's September meeting," said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta.
Wall Street's main indexes have hit record highs recently, with the benchmark S&P 500 notching a solid 20.6% gain so far this year as investors shrugged off risks around a rise in new coronavirus infections and hoped for the Fed to remain dovish in its policy stance.
Another set of data on Wednesday showed U.S. manufacturing activity unexpectedly picked up in August amid strong order growth, but a measure of factory employment dropped to a nine-month low, likely as workers remained scarce.
Surveys earlier in the day showed Asian and European factory activity lost momentum last month as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted supply chains.
At 12:03 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 19.21 points, or 0.05%, at 35,341.52, the S&P 500 was up 8.78 points, or 0.19%, at 4,531.46, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 107.32 points, or 0.70%, at 15,366.56.
Shares of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH Corp (NYSE:PVH) surged 14.5% to the top of the S&P 500 after it raised its full-year earnings forecast.
Video chipmaker Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA) gained 20.5% after it beat profit estimates and forecast revenue above market expectations.
Maker of Prego pasta sauces, Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) Co rose 1.9% even as it forecast FY22 profit and sales below market expectations due to a slowdown in demand and higher raw material costs.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.51-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 43 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 95 new highs and 12 new lows.