NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks remained mostly lower in afternoon trading Wednesday as investors reacted to a better-than-expected private jobs report as well as minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December policy meeting.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was down 79 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,451 as of 2:25 p.m. Eastern. The Dow was dragged lower by Chevron and McDonald’s, both down nearly 2 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell a point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,837 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,163.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: The big theme of the week is job news. A private survey showed U.S. businesses added the most jobs in a year in December, powered by a big gain in construction work. Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 238,000 jobs in December, better than the 200,000 economists predicted. The ADP data sets the stage for Friday’s government jobs report. Investors expect the U.S. economy created 190,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained steady at 7 percent.
FED MINUTES: The Federal Reserve released minutes from its mid-December meeting, when central bank officials surprised investors by voting to start pulling back on the bank’s huge bond-buying program. A majority of Fed policymakers believed the recent jobs data and other signs of an improving economy were enough to merit a reduction in stimulus. The vote led to the decision to cut the Fed’s bond-buying program from $85 billion a month to $75 billion beginning in January.
EARNINGS SEASON ARRIVES: Big publicly traded companies will start reporting their quarterly financial results Thursday. Dow member Chevron reports after the closing bell Thursday as well as former Dow member Alcoa. Investors are going to be looking to see if the recent improvement in the U.S. economy has translated into higher earnings for corporate America.