Stocks straddled the flatline in late-afternoon trading Wednesday after the Federal Reserve struck a more downbeat tone on the U.S. economy.
The S&P 500 was up 0.05%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.08%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.15%.
The Fed's "Beige Book" said that economic activity continued to expand in most of the central bank's 12 districts from early January to late February, though not as solidly as in previous months. Manufacturing activity was weaker as a stronger U.S. dollar and weaker global economy deterred demand.
Crude oil trading stabilized by mid-afternoon as investors weighed hopes for a supply cut from Saudi Arabia against a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. inventories. The Saudi Arabian government is reportedly seeking an international loan of up to $10 billion as it struggles with lower oil prices. The reports sparked hopes Saudi's lack of funds could prompt a supply cut.
Oil was sharply lower earlier in the morning after an official read on crude inventories climbed. Crude inventories rose by 10.4 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration, nearly three times what analysts had expected. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 0.9% to $34.71 a barrel.
Far more jobs were added to private payrolls in February than analysts had expected. The ADP employment report showed that 214,000 jobs were added to private payrolls last month compared to an expected increase of 190,000.
The U.S. jobs report for February, due Friday, is the key release of the week and the most important piece of data between now and when the Federal Reserve meets on March 15. Economists expect 215,000 jobs to have been added to U.S. nonfarm payrolls over the past month.