* Strong ADP report boosts hopes for payrolls
* Micron, Apollo both jump after strong earnings
* Forest Labs shares rise; will buy peer Aptalis
* Dow off 0.5 pct, S&P off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Jan 8 The Dow and the S&P 500 declined
modestly on Wednesday as investors awaited the release of
minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting,
while Micron's strong results helped boost the Nasdaq.
Minutes of the Fed's December meeting, after which the U.S.
central bank announced its decision to begin trimming its
monthly bond purchases, will be released at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT).
Market participants will scour them for details about the
tapering, as well as look for signs of a clear Fed commitment to
keeping rates low for a long time.
The Fed's accommodative policies were the main driver of the
S&P 500's rally of nearly 30 percent in 2013. The program is
expected to keep a floor under stock prices for as long as it
"Investors are digesting the rally we've seen lately as we
await more information," said Paul Nolte, managing director at
Dearborn Partners in Chicago. "Everyone wants to see what was
behind the curtain of the last Fed meeting, to see what
parameters were discussed with the taper or rates."
U.S. private-sector employers added 238,000 jobs in
December, more than expected and the best read since November
2012, while November 2013 numbers were revised higher, according
to a report by ADP, a payrolls processor.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said the
ADP report had lifted estimates for the government's nonfarm
payrolls report, which will be released on Friday. Analysts
expect 196,000 jobs were added in December, but Zandi said that
based on the ADP report, the payrolls data would show 230,000
jobs were created.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 89.52
points, or 0.54 percent, at 16,441.42. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 1.83 points, or 0.10 percent, at 1,836.05.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.72 points, or 0.26
percent, at 4,163.90.
Microsoft is closer to naming a new chief executive
officer, according to a source familiar with the board's
thinking, but it lost a front-runner candidate on Tuesday when
Ford's CEO Alan Mulally said he would not be going to the
Ford's stock rose 1.7 percent to $15.64. Microsoft fell 1.6
percent to $35.84, pressuring the Dow.
Shares of JC Penney Co Inc slid 8.3 percent to $7.51
after the department store chain said on Wednesday that it was
"pleased" with its holiday season sales without giving specific
results. That prompted many on Wall Street to say the retailer's
sales may have declined last month.
On the upside, both Apollo Education Group Inc and
Micron Technology soared a day after reporting
higher-than-expected quarterly profits.
Apollo shares surged 13 percent to $30.45. Micron's stock
shot up 9.5 percent to $23.80. They were the top two percentage
gainers in the Nasdaq 100.
The pharmaceutical sector continued to be fertile ground for
mergers and acquisitions. Forest Laboratories agreed to
buy privately held specialty pharmaceutical company Aptalis
Holdings Inc for about $2.9 billion. Forest Labs shares jumped
16.7 percent to $68.58, ranking as the S&P 500's biggest gainer.
NuPathe Inc leaped 36.8 percent to $4.42 after the
company said it received a buyout offer from Israel's Teva
Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd for $114 million
plus milestone payments related to NuPathe's migraine treatment.