By Kate Gibson
U.S. stocks wavered 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 16.63 points, or 0.2%, at 10,890.79. Twenty-two of the blue-chip index's 30 components tallied losses, led by aerospace giant Boeing Corp. (BA), down 1.3%.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) was off nearly 1 point at 1,172.49, with consumer discretionary shares the session's worst performer so far. Notable sector laggards included Ford Motor Co. (F), down 4.3%, and AutoNation Inc. (AN), shares of which fell 2.7%.
Energy shares led the market's limited gains, with companies including Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (DO) and Denbury Resources Inc. (DNR) up more than 3%.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) rose 2.75 points, or 0.1%, to 2,413.44.
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.
Advancers edged just ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, were trading volume was light, as to be expected in a holiday week, with 344 million shares exchanged on the New York Stock Exchange as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern. Composite volume on the NYSE topped 1.8 billion.
Wednesday's close will mark the end of the month as well as the first quarter, with the major stock indexes poised for gains on both fronts.