US STOCKS-Wall St edges up on data as Fed statement looms

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 31, 2013 14:10 hrs

* Statement could spell out the Fed's stimulus roadmap for future

* Facebook trades above IPO price of $38 for first time since debut

* Air Products shares up after Ackman confirms stake

* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P adds 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.5 pct,

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, July 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday as data showed stronger-than-anticipated jobs growth in the private sector in July and an unexpectedly accelerating economy in the April-June period.

Traders, however, were focused on a much-anticipated statement from the Federal Reserve, expected at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) that could spell out the U.S. central bank's stimulus roadmap for the coming months.

The Fed likely will decide at the end of its policy meeting to continue buying bonds at an $85 billion monthly pace, but its statement will be combed for indications on when and by how much it could scale back its purchases as the economic recovery takes hold.

The Fed's stimulus program is seen by many as one of the main reasons for the stock market to have risen more than 18 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 and laying a firmer foundation for the year that could bring the Fed closer to cutting back its stimulus.

"The recovery in the economy is starting to take root," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.

"This will be an interesting development, given the fact that we'll have a Fed announcement today, and it will play into how Wall Street perceives the Fed's tapering plans."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 51.3 points or 0.33 percent, to 15,571.89, the S&P 500 gained 5.79 points or 0.34 percent, to 1,691.75 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.35 points or 0.51 percent, to 3,634.81.

The S&P 500 is on track to post its biggest monthly percentage gain since October 2011.

Air Products & Chemicals shares gained 3.2 percent to $108.95 after activist investor William Ackman said his Pershing Square Capital Management has acquired a 9.8 percent stake the industrial gas producer.

Facebook Inc's stock traded above its initial public offering price of $38 for the first time since its market debut, a milestone in the social networking company's effort to wipe away Wall Street's skepticism of its business. The stock rose as much as $38.31 and was recently up 1 percent at $37.99.

Symantec shares rose 6.8 percent to $22 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 attacks.

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 showed.

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