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Dow Jones average is back in record territory

Steve Rothwell, AP Markets Writer

Trader Dan Ryan works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013. Stocks rose in early trading Wednesday, sending major indexes back to record highs, as traders anticipated that the Federal Reserve will keep up its stimulus program for some time. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- There was no major economic news, no blockbuster company earnings. But that didn't stop investors from pushing the stock market deeper into record territory Wednesday afternoon.

Instead, investors focused on the big economic news this week that has yet to come, U.S. third-quarter economic growth on Thursday and the October jobs report Friday. In the meantime, traders said there wasn't a decisive catalyst for the stock market to resume its ascent.

Stocks mostly rose in Wednesday trading as traders anticipated that the Federal Reserve will keep up its stimulus program for some time.

"The markets are going to slowly drift up higher, unless there is something to keep it from happening," said Randy Frederick, a managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

The stock market has surged this year as the Fed's economic stimulus kept interest rates low to encourage borrowing and spending. That stimulus has also kept bond yields near record low levels and made stocks look attractive by comparison.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 109 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,712 as of 2:27 p.m. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,768. Both indexes crossed above the record closing highs they closed at Oct. 29 during early trading.

The Nasdaq composite fell 12 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,927.

Economists expect that the U.S. economy grew at an annualized pace of 2 percent in the July-to-September period, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. They also forecast that U.S. employers added 122,000 jobs in October.

Both pieces of data could give an indication of when the Federal Reserve will curtail its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program. The Fed surprised investors in September when it said the economy wasn't strong enough for it to start withdrawing the stimulus.

In company news Wednesday, Ralph Lauren was among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500.

The luxury retailer rose $8.88, or 5.2 percent, to $180.02 after raising its sales forecast for the year in anticipation of a strong holiday season. Ralph Lauren also increased its quarterly dividend by 12.5 percent to 45 cents.

Tesla Motors was among the biggest decliners in the Nasdaq. The electric carmaker's stock sank $24.23, or 13.7 percent, to $152.59 after it reported a loss; analysts had been expecting a profit. The stock is still up almost 350 percent this year after the company turned a profit and won raves for its Model S sedan, which starts at $70,000.

The drop in Tesla's stock was so steep that it triggered a "circuit breaker" on the Nasdaq exchange.

The rule, introduced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent big stock declines from snowballing, puts restrictions on short-selling a stock that has dropped 10 percent or more from the previous day's closing price. When traders sell stocks short, they borrow the stock and immediately sell it in the hope of being able to buy the shares back later at a lower price.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note fell to 2.65 percent from 2.67 percent on Tuesday. The U.S. Treasury said Wednesday it will begin selling Treasury securities next year that have variable interest rates. It's the first new Treasury security in 17 years.

In commodities trading, the price of oil recovered from an extended slide. Oil advanced $1.37, or 1.5 percent, to $95.72 a barrel. The price of gold rose $9.70, or 0.7 percent, to $1,317.80 an ounce.

Among other stocks making big moves, Abercrombie & Fitch fell $4.86, or 12.7 percent, to $33.46. The teen apparel retailer cut its full-year profit forecast and reported a sharp drop in sales for the third quarter.