The ADP survey suggests that government spending cuts have yet to deter employers from hiring. Investors look to the ADP survey as a preview to the closely watched Labor Department report, which comes out Friday. Economists expect the government to say employers added 152,000 jobs in February, lowering the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 7.9 percent.
As traders anticipated better news about the job market, bond prices fell and the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.93 percent from 1.90 percent late Tuesday.
Expectations of a stronger economy tend to lure traders out of Treasurys and into investments that tend to rise with economic growth, like stocks.
Over the long haul, stock markets head higher, but the path is rarely smooth. In October 2007, the Dow hit its previous high of 14,164. A year later, the country was in the middle of a financial crisis and the Dow was in free fall. In January 1987, the Dow closed above 2,000 for the first time and then hit a record of 2,722 in August. Two months later, the Dow had plunged 36 percent from its peak, including a huge drop on Black Monday.
That hardly means the market is about to take another plunge. Analysts point to other reasons, besides the poor returns offered by bonds, that the stock market could continue climbing: The economy is slowly recovering, interest rates and inflation are low, and stocks are not especially expensive. The 30 companies in the Dow trade for 15 times their per-share earnings in 2012, in line with their historical average.
Among other companies making big moves:
* Staples sank 7 percent after the office-supply chain posted a 72 percent drop in quarterly earnings. The company was hit by charges from closing stores. Staples also warned of weaker sales growth this year. Staples dropped 95 cents to $12.34.
* Strong quarterly profits propelled Big Lots up 6 percent. The discount store posted better earnings than analysts had projected, helped by soaring sales in Canada. Big Lots rose $2.08 to $35.97.
* American Eagle Outfitters fell 10 percent after the clothing retailer reported earnings that fell short of analysts' estimates. Its quarterly earnings forecast also fell short, and the company's stock dropped $2.28 to $20.27.