* ADP employment report comes in below expectations
* Zynga to offer casino games in Britain, stock rallies
* Indexes down: Dow 0.5 pct, S&P 0.8 pct, Nasdaq 0.8 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, April 3 U.S. stocks declined on
Wednesday after disappointing economic data, but the S&P 500
index hung near an all-time intraday high.
Disappointment came from a jobs report that showed
less-than-expected hiring in the private sector in March, while
a services sector index also came in below expectations.
Investors expect market movements to be slight before
Friday's release of the broader U.S. non-farm payrolls report
for March from the Labor Department.
Momentum for the market to move higher remains, strategists
say. The S&P has been near an intraday record level of 1,576.09
for the past several sessions, inching to within three points on
Tuesday before pulling back. The index still ended at a new
closing high on Tuesday.
"Investors now appear to be focused on the potential for
continuing global economic growth in the year ahead," said
Stuart T. Freeman, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo
Advisors. The firm raised its year-end S&P 500 target range to
1,575-1,625 from an initial target of 1,525-1,575.
The S&P 500 has advanced more than 10 percent this year and
last week broke above its 2007 closing high. The Dow broke above
its 2007 record on March 5.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 70.27
points, or 0.48 percent, at 14,591.74. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 12.32 points, or 0.78 percent, at
1,557.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 25.76
points, or 0.79 percent, at 3,229.11.
In economic news, the ADP National Employment Report showed
U.S. companies hired at the slowest pace in five months, far
below what economists had expected, though the February report
was revised upward.
"One potential cloud on the horizon is that no construction
jobs were created in March. We think this is a little unusual,
especially given the time of year ahead of the onset of the key
spring selling season," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic
strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.
"The lack of employment gains begs the question as to
whether construction gains are purely related to rebuilding in
the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. We doubt it, but it now has
one thinking about that notion in advance of the non-farm
The Institute for Supply Management's March services sector
index also came in below expectations, with the pace of growth
at the lowest level in seven months.
Among stocks on the move, Zynga Inc surged nearly
15 percent to $3.52 after the company said it would begin
offering poker and casino-style games in Britain in partnership
with Bwin.party Digital Entertainment.
ConAgra Foods Inc fell 0.8 percent to $35.23 after
reporting third-quarter earnings that fell 57 percent, though
Monsanto Co rose 1.3 percent to $104.94 after
raising its full-year profit forecast.
Issues in the euro zone will continue to be in focus a day
after Cyprus concluded a bailout deal. The plan, which still
requires ratification, would mean the country receives a 10
billion euro loan and that it has until 2018 to carry out
measures to shore up its finances. The country's finance
minister resigned after concluding the deal.
While investors have largely used any market decline as a
buying opportunity, the situation in Cyprus has been a major
source of market uncertainty in recent weeks.