Most stocks rose for the first time in four days, as better-than-estimated earnings from technology companies and services-industry data indicated the economy is on track for faster growth. Only the Dow Jones industrial average, after a roller-coaster day, ended with a small loss.
At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up nearly 6.5 points, about 0.3 percent, at 2,099.8. The Dow lost 10.2 points, about 0.06 percent, to 17,540.5, and the Nasdaq rose 34.4 points, about 0.7 percent, to nearly 5,140.
CRUDE ENERGY: As the markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 57 cents to $45.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
THE QUOTE: "The market has been under a little bit of pressure looking for a reason to go back up," said analyst John Manley, who helps oversee about $233 billion as chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management in Manhattan. "The market's moving in the right direction. A slow, steady recovery is probably a good thing. The single most important factor affecting stock markets is what the Fed is doing."
FED WATCH: Investors are watching economic reports to gauge when the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates, a decision it has forecast for this year. Data Wednesday showed service providers from restaurants to real estate agencies expanded in July at the strongest pace in a decade, putting the U.S. economy on track for faster growth. The share of services companies boosting employment was the highest since records began in 1997.
HERE COMES THE SUN: First Solar soared 17 percent following news that the country's largest solar company turned in results that beat estimates and also raised its outlook for full-year profits. Revenue climbed 65 percent in the quarter thanks to more income from its Silver State South plant in Nevada and the sale of stakes in two projects. First Solar's stock jumped $7.17 to $51.67.
TRAVELING UP: Priceline Group climbed 5 percent after the online-booking service posted profit and revenue that easily beat analysts' forecasts, helped by rising reservations for hotel rooms and rental cars. Its stock gained $65.70 to $1,349.76.
JOBS: Payroll processor ADP reported that companies added 185,000 jobs in July, a drop from the previous month. Investors often look to the ADP survey for clues to the Labor Department's monthly report on the job market, which is due out on Friday. Economists forecast that it will show employers added 225,000 workers in July and that the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent.
Reports from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press were used in this story.