Ford rose after reporting higher sales for March and Intuitive Surgical jumped after regulators approved the company's latest robotic surgery device.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,878 as of 12:20 p.m. Eastern. Eight of the ten sectors in the index rose, led by consumer discretionary stocks. The S&P 500 was slightly above its record close set on March 7. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 45 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,502. The Nasdaq composite rose 43 points, or 1 percent, to 4,243.
AUTO SALES: Ford rose 63 cents, or 4 percent, to $16.23 after reporting a bump up in sales last month. Ford's U.S. sales chief John Felice says demand picked up in the middle of March, and the company's top-selling F-Series truck sales gained 5 percent.
ECONOMY WATCH: The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose to 53.7 in March, up from 53.2 in February, as the nation's factories continued to rev up following the severe winter weather earlier this year. Separately, the Commerce Department said construction spending rose by 0.1 percent in February, after falling by 0.2 percent in January. That number was in line with investors' expectations.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: Investors are waiting for Friday's closely watched U.S. jobs report. Economists expect that U.S. employers created 191,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.6 percent. The March report will likely be the first "clean" jobs number investors will get this year, because the December, January and February reports were all impacted by the winter storms that enveloped most of the country earlier this year.
"Markets will be quiet until we get that number," said Jonathan Corpina, a floor trader at the New York Stock Exchange with Meridian Equity Partners.
DOCTOR ROBOTO: Medical device maker Intuitive Surgical jumped $44.42, or 10 percent, to $482.21 after the Food and Drug Administration approved the newest version of the company's surgical robotic system. The robot is designed to do minimally-evasive surgeries that would otherwise require a doctor to open up a patient's body.
MORE LIFE IN BIOTECH: The biotechnology sector, which got hammered earlier this month, rose sharply for a second day. Gilead Sciences was up 3 percent and Amgen was up 1 percent. The S&P 500 Biotechnology index was up 2.5 percent.
OTHER MARKETS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.76 percent from 2.72 percent late Monday. The price of crude oil slipped $1.33 to $100.22 a barrel. Gold was little changed at $1,280 an ounce.