NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks trimmed losses by mid-afternoon Wednesday as energy companies rallied as crude oil traded above $50 a barrel. A mix of weak economic data and soft sales in March from Ford (F) and General Motors (GM), however, were keeping markets in the red.
The S&P 500 declined 0.57%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%, and the Nasdaq was down 0.78%.
Crude oil prices were higher as the pace of oil added to U.S. inventories over the week decreased. Stockpiles added 4.8 million barrels over the week ended March 28, lower than 8.2 million the previous week. West Texas Intermediate was up 5.3% to $50.11 a barrel.
Also helping commodity markets, talks between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., appeared to have stalled despite being extended past Tuesday's initial deadline. The negotiations have centered on Iran not building nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.The removal of such restrictions would see Iranian oil added to an already-oversupplied global market.
Construction spending declined 0.1% to $967.2 billion in February, missing estimates for a 0.2% increase as harsh winter weather took its toll. The ISM Manufacturing Index for March fell short of its forecasts, slipping to a two-year low of 51.5 from 52.9 a month earlier.
The private sector in the U.S. added 189,000 jobs in March, according to the ADP Jobs report. Economists had expected 230,000 jobs to have been added over the month, increasing from 212,000 in February. The Labor Department's official jobs report will be released on Friday, though stock markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.
"I'm surprised that markets are surprised," said U.S. Bank Wealth Management's David Heidel in a call. "The weather in the Northeast is a temporary phenomenon, the port strike is another temporary phenomenon, but the strong dollar is not a temporary phenomenon and I'm surprised that growth expectations haven't been moderated already."
Ford shares fell 1.6% after the automaker saw U.S. sales in March drop 3.5% compared to an expected 4.3% decline. Retail sales added 1%, while fleet sales tanked 13%. General Motors dropped 2.2% as unit sales dropped 2.4%, compared to a forecast 0.1% increase. Toyota (TM) dropped 1% despite topping its rivals as March sales climbed 4.5%.
GoDaddy (GDDY) began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, climbing 30.8% to $26.16 after opening at $26.15. The Web hosting company's shares were priced at $20 each, raising approximately $460 million in the IPO. The float values the company at about $4.5 billion.
Online crafts store Etsy will shop its IPO around on Wednesday, offering 16.67 million shares in the hopes of raising around $267 million. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol 'ETSY'.
Sears (SHLD) moved 0.3% higher after entering into a real estate joint venture with General Growth Properties (GGP). Separately, Sears announced plans to sell some of its Sears and Kmart stores before leasing them back, a move that should raise $2.5 billion.
Agricultural company Monsanto (MON) added 3.7% despite missing second-quarter earnings and sales estimates. The company also lowered full-year profit forecasts as farmers sow less corn crop and the U.S. dollar undercuts foreign sales.
Amazon (AMZN) shares were on watch after the company unveiled Wi-Fi-connected technology called a Dash Button that allows invited participants to purchase products from stores such as Huggies and Gillette instantaneously.
Twitter (TWTR) jumped nearly 1% after being rated a new buy at Jefferies. The firm said it believes the company is a leader in the social media space with ample opportunity to benefit from growing online video and mobile advertising trends.