The US bourse is set to open higher as European leaders get ready to meet.

New York - US stocks made modest gains on Wednesday and the S&P 500 held near its record high of the prior session after data suggested the economy is recovering from a winter-driven slowdown.

US private employers added 191,000 workers in March, slightly below the 195,000 forecast, while gains in the prior month were revised to 178,000 from a previously reported 139,000, signaling that a winter-related impact on job growth, seen earlier in the year, was easing.

Separately, orders for manufactured goods jumped 1.6 percent in February, the biggest rise since last September and above a 1.2 percent estimate.

January's orders were revised to show a larger 1.0 percent drop instead of the previously reported 0.7 percent fall.

Still, investors may be looking for stronger evidence of economic improvement to push equities higher after the benchmark S&P index closed at a record high on Tuesday.

“We are back to a point where we crossed over the Rubicon of weather-related bad news, and now what we need - and this may or may not manifest itself in Friday's nonfarm payrolls - but what we really need to see is good news,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

“We are in positive economic data territory but to continue to make new highs, we are going to have to see improvement, not just good, but great and that is why we are holding tight here.”

Shares of MannKind Corp soared 77.9 percent to $7.15.

US health advisers Tuesday recommended approval of the company's inhaled diabetes drug.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.74 points, or 0.05 percent, to 16,540.35, the S&P 500 gained 2.04 points, or 0.11 percent, to 1,887.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.999 points, or 0.14 percent, to 4,274.038.

Fertilizer company Agrium Inc said a late start to spring and railroad-related backlogs will result in first-quarter earnings per share just above breakeven. Its shares lost 1.9 percent to $95.68.

Apollo Education Group Inc tumbled 6.3 percent to $32.93.

It reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue and said it had received a subpoena from the US Department of Education's Office of Inspector General seeking information about the operations of the Northeast region of the University of Phoenix.

DFC Global Corp gained 5.8 percent to $9.50.

The pawn and payday lender said it would be acquired by private equity firm Lone Star Funds for about $1.3 billion, including debt. - Reuters