Stocks Tread Water With Mixed Finish

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It was a mixed finish for stocks Wednesday as investors pondered a disappointing private-sector employment report ahead of Friday's official April jobs data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 11 points, or 0.1%, to close at 13,268. The blue-chip index was in negative territory all day but did manage a healthy bounce off a session low of 13,192. On Tuesday, the Dow hit a high of 13,359.60, its best level since late 2007.

The S&P 500 slipped nearly 4 points, or 0.2%, to settle at 1402, trading in a rough range of 11 points.

The Nasdaq added 9 points, or 0.3%, to close at nearly 3060 after running as low as 3029 earlier in the session.

"People sometimes react emotionally instead of cerebrally to economic reports ," says Joseph Montero, partner at WeiserMazars. "After the shock value of a report comes out, they sort it out and come back to normal."

Breadth within the Dow was slightly negative with 16 of the index's 30 components moving lower. The biggest percentage decliners were Alcoa ( AA), Bank of America ( BAC), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Chevron ( CVX) and Exxon Mobil ( XOM).

Shares of Alcoa shed about 2.4% to qualify as the Dow's biggest loser. Bloomberg reports that a joint venture between the company and Alumina ( AWC) will produce 15.5 million metric tons of alumina this year, down 3% from its February forecast and down from a record 15.7 million tons last year because of slow demand.

Stocks kicked off May on a strong note Tuesday, posting smart gains after a much better-than-expected report on U.S. manufacturing activity.

On Wednesday, sentiment took a knock as payroll processor Automatic Data Processing reported a much weaker-than-expected increase of 119,000 workers added by U.S. companies in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from a downwardly-revised 201,000 jobs added in March.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters estimated the April ADP number would come in at 170,000.

The light read on employment comes ahead of Friday's official April nonfarm payrolls report from the Labor Department, adding to investor fears that this report will deliver more of the same after a soft number in March.

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