US markets rise on jobs expectations

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(Close): Wall Street stocks rose on Thursday ahead of a February jobs report that is expected to show the economy growing.

The Dow Jones climbed 44.24 points, or 0.26%, to 16,943.56.

The wider S&P 500 gained 6.94 points, or 0.35%, to 1,993.39, while the Nasdaq added 4 points, or 0.09%, to 4,707.42.

Despite hopes for a strong jobs report, data on Thursday showed slowing growth in the services sector in February and industrial orders in January.

February employment numbers will be released on Friday and are expected to the show 190,000 jobs were added, up from 151,000 in January.

"The market has been on hold most of the day, awaiting tomorrow's unemployment data," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.

Oil prices reversed losses from early in the day. US light crude rose 0.1% to $34.68 a barrel, while Brent crude climbed 0.6% to $37.16.

Caterpillar - the maker of heavy machinery - saw its share price rise 3.4%.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy surged 26.6% a day after the death of its former chief executive, who had been battling fraud charges. The company has been granted immunity in connection with the charges.

Kroger shares tumbled 7%, after the supermarket chain reported fourth quarter sales below analysts' expectations.