Stocks finished in positive territory for the fourth-consecutive session Wednesday, with the S&P 500 touching a fresh high, as investors digested a batch of economic reports.
"We'll be focused on economic data for a couple of weeks, and then earnings will take over—although companies have been doing a good job of dampening expectations," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Management. "This is going to be a slow nose-bleed market–I expect a sharp short-term correction and something's going to trigger that…the law of large numbers suggests something going to go wrong at some point."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked up 40.39 points to finish at 16,573. The Dow is within 10 points of hitting its all-time high. Caterpillar led the blue-chip gainers.
The edged up 5.38 points to close at 1,890.90. And the Nasdaq ticked up 8.42 points to end at 4,276.46.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed near 13.
Most key S&P sectors were in positive territory, led by materials.
"After yesterday's solid gains, holding tough and not giving much back is impressive," said Ryan Detrick of Schaeffer's Investment Research, noting that April has historically been the strongest month for markets.
"With small caps and tech finally starting to bottom after a horrible March, I wouldn't bet against the bulls here," said the senior technical strategist. "Economic data is always important, but with the ending of QE on the horizon, it is actually more important than ever. Which makes Friday's jobs data all the more meaningful."
On the economic front, U.S. private employers added 191,000 workers in March, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Economists surveyed by Reuters likely showed a gain of 195,000 jobs.
"Bottom line, 191,000 was certainly a rebound from the past two months where job growth averaged 150,000 but 191,000 is little changed from the 2013 average of 187,000 and I think people were hoping for a bigger bounce back," wrote Peter Boockvar, managing director at The Lindsey Group.
The ADP report came ahead of the monthly government jobs report, due Friday. Economists polled by Reuters expect a gain of 197,000 new jobs in March. The U.S. created 175,000 jobs in February, exceeding expectations.
On Monday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank will continue to support the economy, given the slow pace of the recovery and a still tepid job market, adding that the economy was "considerably short" of the Fed's goals.
Internet giant Google split its stock Wednesday. Class A shares will trade under a new ticker symbol "GOOGL" and the other, Class C, will trade under "GOOG." This now means the S&P 500 will technically have 501 components (though it will still have only 500 companies).
General Motors came under heavy criticism for the second day as a Senate hearing opened Wednesday with accusations that the company fostered "a culture of cover-up." Reuters reported GM decided in 2005 not to redesign those ignition switch because it would have added about a dollar to the cost of each car.
Monsanto edged higher after the world's largest seed company posted better-than-expected earnings, thanks to the global expansion of its corn and soybean businesses.
MannKind surged more than 80 percent after an advisory committee to the U.S. health regulator recommended approval for the drugmaker's inhaled insulin treatment.
Apollo Education slumped sharply after the for-profit education company posted lower-than-expected The company reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue as enrollments fell nearly 17 percent at its flagship University of Phoenix. The company also received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, seeking information about the operations of the Northeast region of the University of Phoenix.
Also on the economic front, factory orders gained 1.6 percent in February, according to the Commerce Department, logging the biggest gain since last September. Economists polled by Reuters expected a gain of 1.2 percent.
Weekly mortgage applications declined amid lower financing demand, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Challenger job-cut report, international trade, jobless claims, PMI services index, ISM non-mfg index, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Google Class C shares expected; Earnings from Global Payments, Micron
FRIDAY: Nonfarm payrolls, GM 'Emergency Motion' hearing; Earnings from CarMax