NEW YORK, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks eked out modest gains on Thursday, rising for the third consecutive day, as investors tried to digest a batch of positive economic data amid ongoing worries of the Federal Reserve's possible tapering of its stimulus and an imminent U.S.-led attack on Syria.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.61 points, or 0.04 percent, to 14,937.48 points. The S&P 500 was up 2 points, or 0.12 percent, to 1,655.08 points. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9. 74 points, or 0.27 percent, to 3,658.78 points.
The market rallied but posted a seesaw trading session as the encouraging data increased the possibility that the Federal Reserve would dial back its monetary stimulus in its policy meeting scheduled for Sept. 17-18.
The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rose nearly to 3 percent, its highest level in more than two years, on the increasing expectation of Fed's tapering.
Also, investors continued to worry about the imminent U.S.-led attack against Syria. The U.S. House of Representatives will debate a resolution to authorize military action in Syria next week, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution Wednesday to authorize a military strike against Syria.
On the economic front, U.S. private sector added 176,000 jobs in August, according to the payroll processing institute ADP.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who initially applied for unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 to 323,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.
The pair of jobs data came out a day before a widely-watched nonfarm payroll report to be released by the Labor Department.
Moreover, the U.S. Non-Manufacturing Index registered 58.6 in August from 56 in July, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.
The ISM reported Tuesday that U.S. economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in August for the third consecutive month, with its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) increasing to 55. 7 from 55.4 in the prior month.
"The two ISM reports suggest the economy shifted into a higher gear in August," FTN Financial Chief Economist Christopher Low said on Thursday.
The two reports argue for Fed's faster tapering, and if sustained in future months, perhaps faster tightening, Low added.
On other markets, the U.S. dollar advanced against major currencies on Thursday.
The dollar reached a seven-week high against the euro after the European Central Bank (ECB) kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent. ECB President Mario Draghi said officials discussed a possible interest rate cut.
In late New York trading, the euro fell to 1.3122 dollars from 1.3207 dollars of the previous session. The dollar/yen rate also broke the level of 100, with the dollar buying 100.13 Japanese yen, higher than 99.74 yen of the previous session.
Oil prices gained as official data showed that the crude stockpiles of the United States dropped larger-than-expected last week.
Light, sweet crude for October delivery moved up 1.14 dollars to settle at 108.37 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for October delivery climbed 0.35 dollar to close at 115.26 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped for the fifth session out of six. The most active gold contract for December delivery lost 17 dollars, or 1.22 percent, to settle at 1,373 dollars per ounce.