NEW YORK – Caution about a report over job losses kept investors on the sidelines Wednesday, leaving stocks drifting in morning trading.
Initial enthusiasm over signs of growth in the services industry faded by midmorning and stock indexes were narrowly mixed.
Stocks had been higher after the Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 50.1 in December from 48.7 in November. Any reading above 50 signals growth.
But the positive news about service companies was offset by a report showing that 84,000 private sector jobs were lost last month. The ADP National Employment Report came in worse than the forecasts of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Investors appear to be holding back ahead of a key employment report coming up Friday from the Labor Department. Economists expect that the unemployment rate ticked up to 10.1 percent in December from 10 percent in November.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.21, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,573.23. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.92, or 0.1 percent, to 1,135.60, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.43, or 0.1 percent, to 2,307.28.
Trading turned quiet Tuesday after a strong rally on Monday lifted stocks to 15-month highs on the first trading day of 2010.
Bond prices fell, pushing their yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.81 percent from 3.76 percent late Tuesday.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold rose.
Crude oil fell 42 cents to $81.35 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
About three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 228.3 million shares, compared with 236.8 million shares traded at the same point Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 2.14, or 0.3 percent, to 640.63.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.5 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX index was up 0.1 percent, and France's CAC-40 was down less than 0.1 percent.