* U.S. manufacturing growth slows in April -ISM
* Merck, MasterCard shares down after results
* U.S. companies hire less, manufacturing growth slows in
* U.S. Fed expected to maintain $85 bln/month in bond buys
* Indexes: Dow off 0.3 pct, S&P off 0.3 pct, Nasdaq off 0.3
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 1 U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday,
weighed by a slew of economic data that suggested
Disappointing results from companies including MasterCard
and Merck were also weighing on the market. Merck
was the biggest decliner on the blue chip Dow index.
U.S. private employers added 119,000 jobs in April, well
below economists' expectations, in the latest piece of data to
suggest the economy is encountering a soft patch.
Adding to signs the economy cooled as the second quarter got
under way, a separate report showed the pace of U.S.
manufacturing growth slowed in April as the sector expanded only
"We have weak ADP, weak ISM and probably less bullish tone
on the state of the economy from the Fed later. Basically, we've
had six weeks of weakening data but I think this may be a speed
bump rather than a trend," said Jack De Gan, chief investment
officer of Harbor Advisory.
"If we can overcome this by the end of the day, we are
breaking out of an old high and heading into a new (territory)."
The U.S. Federal Reserve, which is holding a two-day policy
meeting, announces its latest decision at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT)
and the European Central Bank follows on Thursday. The Fed is
likely to keep its foot on the stimulus pedal, especially after
disappointing economic data.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 44.71
points, or 0.30 percent, at 14,795.09. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 5.28 points, or 0.33 percent, at 1,592.29.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 10.11 points, or
0.30 percent, at 3,318.68.
The S&P 500 closed out its sixth straight month of gains,
its longest winning streak since September 2009, with investors
using any pullback as a buying opportunity.
The benchmark index hit a new intraday high in the last
minutes of trading on Tuesday, following a session in which
moves were slight as investors found few reasons to extend
MasterCard Inc shares were down 1.7 percent at
$543.38 after the world's second-largest credit and debit card
network reported a higher-than-expected rise in quarterly profit
but revenue fell short of the average analyst estimate.
Merck & Co Inc reported lower-than-expected first
quarter sales as generic competition hurt demand for its
Singulair asthma drug and the stronger dollar hit overseas
sales. The stock was down 3.3 percent at $45.46.
Chesapeake Energy Corp reported a quarterly profit
that topped Wall Street expectations on Wednesday, helped by
lower production expenses and higher oil and natural gas prices.
The stock was off 2.3 percent at $19.10.