U.S. stocks fell in Wednesday morning trading, effectively wiping out modest gains from a day earlier, as a survey on hiring did little to ease uncertainty over the health of the economy.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was down 75 points, or 0.5 percent, to 15,369 at 11:07 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 14 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,740. The Nasdaq composite fell 55 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,976.
JOB GROWTH: A private survey on Wednesday showed that U.S. businesses added jobs at a steady but modest pace in January, a sign that hiring has rebounded after a disappointing figure in December. Payroll processor ADP said companies added 175,000 jobs last month. That's down from 227,000 in December, which was revised lower. But it was much better than the government's official figure of just 74,000 new jobs in December. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report due out Friday.
WAIT AND SEE: Despite the market's tepid rise on Tuesday, many investors remain leery, waiting to see if upcoming economic reports and company earnings will show that the U.S. economic recovery is on track.
A look at trading volumes illustrates the dynamic, notes Chris Gaffney, a senior market strategist at EverBank.
"On the down days, we're seeing larger volumes than on the up days," Gaffney said. "That leads me to believe that we're still in a down market here. And it's really going to take a surprise on the upside in this Friday's jobs numbers to maybe get us out of this funk."
BIG DECLINERS: Freight transportation company C.H. Robinson Worldwide led the S&P 500's decliners, falling 5.52, or 9.4 percent to $53.12. Health care information services provider Cerner also fell sharply, shedding $4.83, or 8.5 percent, to $51.77.
MONEY HANDLERS: Several financial services companies were posting gains early Wednesday. Genworth Financial was up 36 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $14.92 after reporting first-quarter earnings. Ameriprise Financial rose 24 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $103.80. The Hartford Financial Services Group gained 7 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $32.90.
TREASURIES: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 2.65 percent from 2.63 percent on Tuesday. The yield, which affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, has dropped from 3 percent at the start of the year as investors have bought bonds amid concern that U.S. growth is slowing.
EUROPE SLUGGISH: European stocks shifted between slight gains and losses after data showed disappointing retail sales across the 18-country eurozone in the crucial shopping month of December. Britain's FTSE 100 and the CAC-40 in France edged up 0.5 percent. Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent.
ASIA MARKETS CLOSE: Markets in Mainland China remain closed for the Lunar New Year holiday until Friday. But the region's second-biggest market, Hong Kong, stayed lower. The Hang Seng slipped 0.6 percent and stocks in Taiwan also fell. Japan's market recovered slightly as the Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent. It remains down 13 percent for the year. Elsewhere in Asia, stock indexes rose in New Zealand, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Thailand. They fell in Australia.