Wall Street ends flat in cautious trading

08:21, March 04, 2010      

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Wall Street ended flat after a three-day winning streak on Wednesday as investors were cautious in making any bets ahead of Friday's key payroll report and Fed's subdued assessment on the economy weighed on the market.

Stocks have advanced over the past three sessions, pushing the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq into positive territory for 2010, as concerns over Greece debt problems eased. Volumes were light during recent session as investors were cautiously waiting the monthly payroll report. The government non-farm payroll will release on Friday, which is expected to provide some directions for the market and also probably set the tone in the short run.

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 9.22, or 0.09 percent, to 10,396.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up 0.48, or 0. 04 percent, to 1,118.79 and the Nasdaq edged down 0.11 to 2,280.68, basically unchanged.

Major averages drifted higher before retreating on Wednesday as private companies shed less jobs and service sector expanded at the fastest pace in more than two years. Report from ADP, a private employment service, showed that U.S. private employers shed 20,000 jobs in February, in line with the market expectation. It was the smallest decline in two years.

Meanwhile, data showed The Institute for Supply Management's services sector index rose to 53 in February from 50.5 in January, hitting the highest point since December 2007, at the start of the recession. Economists had expected the index to rise to 51.

However, U.S. stocks gave up morning gains after the Federal Reserve's Beige Book pained a gray picture for the economy. Fed said in its monthly report, which tracks economic conditions in 12 regions, that economy continued to expand in February despite severe snowstorms, but the growth hasn't been enough to prompt job hiring and bring down the unemployment rate.

Pharmaceutical companies were among the worst performers on Wednesday, dragging the market lower in the afternoon. Pfizer lost 1.6 percent to 17.32 dollars a share after the drug maker said an Alzheimer's drug it was developing failed to reach goals in a late- stage study.

Source: Xinhua
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