Stocks closed higher for a fourth straight day Wednesday after a report on hiring provided another encouraging sign that the economy is emerging from its winter slump.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at a record high for the eighth time this year. The Dow Jones industrial average also rose above its record closing level during trading, but fell back and finished just short of its first all-time high of the year.

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The stock market has turned higher this week after moving largely sideways for most of the year as reports have suggested the economy is strengthening after slowing down during an unusually harsh winter. The catalyst Wednesday was a private survey that showed U.S. companies increased hiring at a rapid pace last month after a strong manufacturing survey a day earlier.

"In January and February we had that weather weakness, and it's now showing through that . . . the underlying economy is fine," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust.

The S&P 500 rose 0.29 percent to 1,890.90. The Dow climbed 40.39 points to 16,573, just short of its record close of 16,576.66 set Dec. 31. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.20 percent, to 4,276.46. -- AP