NEW YORK—U.S. stocks advanced, putting the market on track to close out August with a four-session winning streak, as a round of modestly positive economic data and hopes for further stimulus from the Federal Reserve encouraged investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 77 points, or 0.7%, to 11637 in late morning trade, edging back into positive territory for 2011. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index gained 11 points, or 0.9%, to 1224, led by industrial and consumer discretionary stocks. The Nasdaq Composite moved up 21 points, or 0.8%, to 2597.

The Dow spent most of August beneath its 2010 close of 11577, wracked by worries of an economic slowdown, sovereign-debt problems in Europe and a U.S. credit downgrade. But it jumped 410 points in the three sessions before Wednesday, although it was still down 4.8% for August up to that point.

The blue-chip measure was led by Alcoa, which gained 4%, and Caterpillar, which added 2.5%. Both are particularly sensitive to the global economy.

AT&T and Verizon were two of three blue-chip decliners following reports that the U.S. Justice Department is suing to block the company’s proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA. AT&T lost 3.8% while Verizon edged down 0.7%.

Sprint-Nextel led the S&P 500, jumping 8.8% after reports of the U.S. government action against AT&T.

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