By Kate Gibson
U.S. stocks slumped mostly lower on Wednesday after payroll-firm ADP reported employers cut 23,000 jobs in March, disappointing investors who had expected a positive count two days ahead of the government's jobs report.
After a 70-point fall, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was down 24.34 points at 10,883.08. Two-thirds of the blue-chip index's 30 components tallied losses, led by aerospace giant Boeing Corp. (BA), down 1.6%.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) fell 2.31 points to 1,170.96, with consumer discretionary shares the session's worst performer so far. Notable sector laggards included Ford Motor Co. (F), down 4%, and AutoNation Inc. (AN), shares of which fell 2.6%.
Energy shares led the market's limited gains, with companies including Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (DO) up nearly 3%.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) declined 1.3 points to 2,409.39.
The ADP report offered a bleaker-than-expected view of the labor market, and roiled nerves ahead of the Labor Department's monthly jobs report, with the data expected to show the economy added jobs in March.
With the stock market shuttered on Friday, the end-of-the-week release of the monthly unemployment report "potentially could play havoc over the weekend," said Stephen Carl, head equity trader at the Williams Capital Group.
"If something drastic comes out, come in with your football helmet on Monday morning," Carl added.
Other data on Wednesday had the Commerce Department reporting factory orders rose 0.6% in February.
As to be expected in a holiday week, trading volume was light, with 267 million shares exchanged on the New York Stock Exchange as of 11 a.m. Eastern.