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S&P Sinks 1% as Oil Falls on Weak Outlook

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks fell the most in five weeks Wednesday as a convergence of sluggish job creation, slow service sector growth and international conflict sent crude tumbling along with energy stocks including Tesoro Corp (TSO).

The S&P 500 fell 1.1% to 1,553.69, the largest drop since Feb. 25. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.8% to 14,550.35 while the Nasdaq finished off 1.1% to 3,218.60.

Private employers added 158,000 jobs in March, trailing an upwardly revised 237,000 in February and well below the 200,000 jobs that economists were expecting. Services sector growth makes up about 90% of the U.S. economy, according to the ADP National Employment Report. The ADP report is a precursor to a non-farm payrolls report for March due on Friday.

"The quarter is over, so some professional portfolio managers are releasing trades that they had held ... and now that they're past the first quarter finish line they can restructure their positioning," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors in a phone interview in Rochester, New York.

March's ISM Non-manufacturing report tracking the services sector reinforced concerns about the labor market. The employment index component of the report fell to its softest since November, taking a bite out of the composite index based on indices measuring business activity, new orders, employment and supplier deliveries, pushing it down to 54.4% in March from 56% February. Economists were expecting a dip to 55.8%

"This report, along with the manufacturing ISM and ADP employment, hints that the pickup in momentum evident in the January and February data may not have been maintained into March," John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros, economists at RDQ Economics in New York, said in a note.

Crude plummeted 2.8% to settle at $94.45 a barrel as inventories rose.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that North Korea's latest actions pose a "real and clear danger and threat" to the United States. Reports emerged that the United States would be sending an anti-ballistic missile system to a base in Guam.

ConAgra Foods (CAG - Get Report) slipped 1.9% to $34.85 after the company, whose brands include Reddi-wip cream, reported misses on both the top and bottom lines in the third quarter as its commercial foods segment reported softness in key Asian markets and its consumer foods segment suffered a 3% year-on-year decline in sales volume for existing brands.

Global Payments Inc. (GPN - Get Report) tumbled 9.2% to $44.52 after the bank-card processor reiterated its fiscal 2013 earnings outlook of $3.64 to $3.71 a share on revenue of $2.36 million to $2.4 million and reported third-quarter revenue of $578.7 million, which was below the average analyst estimate of $580.9 million in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Apple (AAPL - Get Report) shares gained 0.5% to $431.85 after the The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the next iPhone could be launched this summer. Apple plans to begin producing a refreshed iPhone similar in size and shape to its current one within the next three months, the report said. Apple also is working on a cheaper iPhone model, according to the newspaper.

Facebook (FB - Get Report) gained 3.3% to $26.25 on expectations the world's largest social-media platform is poised to announce a new Android phone, possibly called the HTC First, that will prominently feature Facebook accounts.

Newfield Exploration (NFX - Get Report) added 0.5% to $21.99 after the energy company announced late Tuesday a significant natural gas discovery off Sarawak, Malaysia and that it wants to sell its international business.

Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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CAG $37.35 -0.45%
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