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Stocks mixed as investors await jobs report

Traders work on the floor of the New

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after the ringing the opening bell on April 1, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The stock market held close to its all-time high Thursday amid optimism that the economy is set to strengthen.

Stocks are on course for their best weekly gain in seven weeks after investors got more encouraging news on the economy. A survey showed U.S. service firms increased business more quickly last month as orders rose. Reports earlier in the week showed manufacturing strengthening, hiring picking up and sales of cars and trucks rising.

The news came before the government's monthly jobs report, due Friday. Investors expect to see a strong pickup in hiring. Economists are forecasting that the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in March, according to FactSet. That would be the biggest gain in hiring since November.

"If you have a decent economy, a modestly growing economy, that's supportive of corporate earnings and stocks can continue to benefit from that," said John Fox, director of research at Fenimore Asset Management.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.11 percent to 1,888.77. The index closed at an all-time high of 1,890 a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.45 point to 16,572.55. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.91 percent to 4,237.74. -- AP

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