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Stocks end choppy day with small gains

Specialist Vincent Surace, right, works at his post

Specialist Vincent Surace, right, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, May 2, 2014. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks are closing slightly higher as enthusiasm about an improving U.S. service sector outweighed concerns about China.

At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 3.5 points, or about 0.2 percent, to 1,884.7. Utilities stocks rose the most in the index, a sign that investors remain cautious.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 17.7 points, or about 0.1 percent, to 16,530.6. The Nasdaq composite added 14.2 points, or about 0.3 percent, to 4,138.1.

The market started the day lower on news that manufacturing contracted in China in April for the fourth month in a row.

Indexes erased their losses in midmorning trading after a U.S. trade group reported that service firms grew more quickly last month.

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