* Investors focused on afternoon's Fed statement
* Shares of Herbalife climb on report George Soros has taken
* Facebook trades above IPO price of $38 for first time
* Air Products shares up after Ackman confirms stake
* Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P up 0.5 pct; Nasdaq up 0.5 pct
By Alison Griswold
NEW YORK, July 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday
after stronger-than-expected data on jobs and the economy, but
investors remained focused on a Federal Reserve statement that
could spell out the U.S. central bank's stimulus plans for the
The statement from the Fed, due at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) at the
end of a two-day meeting, will be scrutinized for clues on when
the central bank may begin to pare its $85 billion a month in
stimulative bond purchases as the recovery takes hold. The Fed's
stimulus is seen by many as central to the stock market's gain
of nearly 19 percent so far this year.
U.S. gross domestic product unexpectedly accelerated in the
second quarter at a 1.7 percent annual rate, and private
employers added 200,000 jobs in July, topping economists'
expectations. [ID: L1N0G10JV] The ADP jobs data laid a firmer
foundation for the year that could bring the Fed closer to
cutting back its stimulus.
"It looks like this market wants to go higher. The GDP
number that came out this morning was a big surprise," said
Catherine Avery, president of Catherine Avery Investment
Management in New Canaan, Connecticut.
"The big thing is what's going to happen this afternoon when
we get the Fed statements - do we get a tapering, do we not get
Eight of the 10 S&P 500 industry sectors moved higher, with
growth-sensitive cyclical shares leading the gains. The S&P 500
consumer discretionary index added 0.9 percent and the
S&P 500 energy index rose 0.8 percent.
Comcast Corp gave the S&P 500 its biggest boost
after the U.S. cable provider posted a higher quarterly profit
on Wednesday, as it added more Internet customers than expected
on the cable side and saw a more than 20 percent increase in
operating cash flow at its NBC Universal unit.
Shares of Herbalife rose 6.6 percent to $64.01 after
CNBC reported that billionaire George Soros has taken a large
long position in the nutritional supplement company, citing
sources on the matter. Herbalife's stock jumped as high as
$66.25 on the report, its highest price since May 2012.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 81.05 points,
or 0.52 percent, to 15,601.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
rose 8.81 points, or 0.52 percent, to 1,694.77, and the
Nasdaq Composite Index added 18.59 points, or 0.51
percent, to 3,635.05.
The S&P 500, up 5.5 percent so far in July, is on track for
its biggest monthly percentage gain since October 2011.
Facebook Inc's stock traded above its initial public
offering price of $38 for the first time since its market debut,
a milestone for the social networking company and a chance to
erase Wall Street's early skepticism about the company. The
stock rose as much as $38.31 and was recently up 0.5 percent at
Air Products & Chemicals shares gained 4.1 percent
to $109.90 after activist investor William Ackman said his
Pershing Square Capital Management has acquired a 9.8 percent
stake the industrial gas producer.
Symantec shares rose 8.3 percent to $26.36 a day
after the maker of Norton anti-virus software posted
better-than-expected quarterly results as customers used more of
its security products in the wake of a series of hacking
With quarterly results in from 60 percent of the S&P 500
companies, 67.4 percent have exceeded earnings expectations - in
line with the average beat over the last four quarters. About 55
percent of companies have topped revenue expectations, more than
the 48 percent of revenue beats in the past four earnings
seasons but below the historical average, Thomson Reuters data
Amgen Inc fell 2.6 percent and was among the
biggest drags on the S&P 500 a day after the company reported
higher-than-expected profit in the second quarter as sales of
its medicines rebounded from a disappointing first quarter.