Stocks higher after payroll report, pharma deal

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By Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose Wednesday as a strong payroll report and a big pharmaceutical deal overshadowed concerns about the nuclear crisis in Japan and the battle for control of Libya.

The ADP National Employment Report said 201,000 new private sector jobs were added in March. That is roughly in line with the 210,000 analysts had expected, but investors were encouraged by a strong gain in small business hiring.

While not a huge surprise, the ADP report "helped the realization that things are not as bleak as they seemed a few weeks ago," said Ryan Detrick, a strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

The report is seen as a precursor to the government's March payrolls report due Friday, but the two reports don't always match up. Traders are looking for any clues about how strong the U.S. job market is as they try to figure out how soon the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates.

Cephalon Inc. surged 28 percent after Valeant Pharmaceuticals International offered to take over the biopharmaceutical company for $5.7 billion in cash. Valeant, based in Canada, rose 10 percent. The takeover bid is the latest in a string of deal-related news, another positive sign for investors.

"It shows that companies still think there are some good deals out there," said Detrick. "If they are willing to pay a premium, that's a good sign for the overall stock market."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 80 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,359. The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 10, or 0.8 percent, to 1,329. The Nasdaq composite rose 19, or 0.7 percent, to 2,776.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 3.46 percent from 3.49 percent late Tuesday.

The market plodded higher against a backdrop of unsettling international news. Concerns about European debt loomed as Portugal moved closer to needing a bailout and Spain's central bank forecast a lower growth rate and higher deficit than previously predicted.

Seawater near Japan's crippled nuclear facility tested at its highest radiation levels yet and the plant's owner publicly acknowledged that four of six nuclear reactors would have to be decommissioned. In Libya, NATO forces initiated a new wave of airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces.