NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose, with benchmark indexes at record levels, amid better-than-forecast data on service industries before a European Central Bank decision on stimulus and a monthly employment report.

Prudential Financial Inc. and MetLife Inc. led gains in financial stocks, increasing more than 2.3 percent. Protective Life Corp. surged 18 percent after Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. agreed to buy the life insurer for $5.7 billion. Coach Inc. declined 2.6 percent after its rating was downgraded by Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.2 percent to 1,927.88 at 4 p.m. in New York, reaching an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 15.19 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 16,737.53 after climbing to a record on June 2. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.4 percent. About 5 billion shares changed hands Wednesday on U.S. exchanges, 20 percent below the three-month average.

“The market is positioning ahead of the events later this week,” Michael James, a Los Angeles-based managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities Inc., said in a phone interview. “We’re just marking time until we get to the real market-moving decisions, which are going to be from the ECB tomorrow, and the jobs data on Friday.”

Service industries expanded in May at the fastest pace in nine months as orders picked up, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index Wednesday, indicating improving sales will help the U.S. economy strengthen.

The data offset a private report on payrolls indicating companies in the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in May, a sign of uneven progress in the labor market. The result comes ahead of the Labor Department’s data on employment on June 6. That may show private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, increased 210,000 in May after a 273,000 gain in the month prior, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

The Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book business survey Wednesday that the economy expanded at a modest to moderate pace last month as auto sales led household spending and the labor market improved. The survey, released two weeks before policy makers meet in Washington, supports Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s view that the economy is rebounding from a 1 percent contraction in the first quarter caused largely by harsh winter weather.

Fed officials are watching the labor market as they move to complete their bond-purchase program late this year and start considering the timing of the first interest-rate increase since 2006. Central-bank stimulus has helped propel the S&P 500 higher by as much as 185 percent from its bear-market low in March 2009.

“The economy is in a good position where it’s not so buoyant that the Fed has got to withdraw its support quickly, and not so weak that they have to worry about further weakening,” said Patrick Spencer, London-based head of equity sales at Robert W. Baird & Co., which oversees more than $100 billion.

Investors are also watching data from Europe before a meeting of central bank policy makers. Euro-area economic growth slowed in the first quarter, while a separate report showed services expanded last month at the strongest pace in three years.

The reports emphasize the challenges facing ECB President Mario Draghi as he tries to rekindle the economy and prevent deflation. The ECB’s Governing Council meets in Frankfurt on Thursday, where it will probably lower its economic forecasts and add stimulus.

The S&P 500 has rebounded 6.2 percent since its two-month low in April.