Stocks inch into record heights

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks inched a bit further into record territory Wednesday after teeter-tottering through the day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose by just a sliver, but it was enough for a seventh straight gain.

The S&P 500 climbed 3.16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,537.74 after flipping between slight losses and gains through the day. The seven-day win streak is the index’s longest since a similar run in May.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 22,661.64, and the Nasdaq composite picked up 2.91, or less than 0.1 percent, to 6,534.63. All three indexes added to records set a day earlier.

A report from payroll processor ADP said that hiring by private employers weakened sharply last month, a setback for an economy that had been enjoying a generally strengthening job market. But economists and investors were expecting a low number because of the damage done by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hopefully will be only temporary.

The government will release its more comprehensive jobs report on Friday, and economists are also forecasting a weaker number than a month earlier.

Other reports painted a more encouraging picture. One showed that the nation’s services companies expanded last month at their fastest rate in more than a decade. The report from the Institute for Supply Management followed one on Monday that showed U.S. manufacturing is also growing strongly.

“Things continue to be very solid, and the economic numbers continue to be very strong not only here but throughout the world, which is what’s driving this,” said Kirk Hartman, global chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Asset Management.

Mylan surged to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after federal regulators approved its generic version of Teva’s Copaxone drug for multiple sclerosis. Mylan jumped $5.27, or 16.2 percent, to $37.80.

Utility stocks were also strong, and such stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.1 percent.

On the losing end was Office Depot, which plunged after it announced a $1 billion purchase of an IT services and products provider, while cutting its forecast for operating profit this year. Its stock fell 81 cents, or 17.6 percent, to $3.78.

Bond insurers were also weak after President Donald Trump suggested in an interview with Fox News that the federal government may “wipe out” Puerto Rico’s debt following its struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria.

MBIA fell 73 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $7.95, Ambac Financial Group lost 98 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $16.70 and Assured Guaranty dropped $1.11, or 2.9 percent, to $37.58.

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