Wall St. falls as data adds to growth worries; biotechs down

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks declined for a second day on Wednesday, weighed down by tepid data on private sector U.S. jobs and a retreat in biotech shares.

Weaker-than-expected results from Priceline PCLN.O added to the bearish tone.

The Nasdaq Biotech Index .NBI dropped 2.9 percent, its seventh session of losses out of the last eight.

The ADP private sector employment report showed hiring in April fell to its lowest in three years. The report acts as a precursor to the more comprehensive government nonfarm payrolls data due on Friday.

A strengthening labor market is expected to influence the pace of future rate hikes, although traders are pricing in only one hike later this year.

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An accommodative Federal Reserve along with a recovery in oil prices have helped U.S. stocks rally from sharp losses at the start of the year. The S&P 500 is up 0.3 percent since Dec. 31.

“The market is absorbing the move from the February bottom. Given the seasonality of the market and also that it had recently been within close distance of all-time highs, that’s probably a point to consolidate, and I would expect that to continue for the short run,” said Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Bolton Global Asset Management in Boston. “I’m seeing a lot of comments on ‘sell in May and go away’,” a Wall Street adage that refers to stocks being less likely to make big gains in the summer months.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended down 99.65 points, or 0.56 percent, to 17,651.26, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 12.25 points, or 0.59 percent, to 2,051.12 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC finished 37.59 points, or 0.79 percent, lower at 4,725.64.

Shares of Priceline fell 7.5 percent to $1,253.04, among the biggest drags on the S&P and the Nasdaq. The online travel services company’s forecast fell short of expectations.

After the bell, shares of Tesla TSLA.O rose 5 percent after it released results and said it was on track to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 electric vehicles this year. Whole Foods Market Inc WFM.O shares rose 3.2 percent after the bell after better-than-expected quarterly profit. The company's shares had closed down 0.8 percent at $28.51.

Other economic data on Wednesday showed the U.S. services sector expanded in April as new orders and employment accelerated, helping assuage some of those fears.

A Reuters survey of economists showed nonfarm payrolls likely rose by 202,000 in April after rising 215,000 in March. The unemployment rate is forecast to hold at 5 percent.

About 7.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,812 to 1,196, for a 1.52-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,882 issues fell and 928 advanced for a 2.03-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and 64 new lows.

Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish