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US STOCKS-Wall Street dips, but S&P still near record high

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Apr 03, 2013 14:20 hrs

* ADP employment report comes in below expectations

* Zynga rallies, to offer casino games in Britain

* ConAgra falls after results, Monsanto rises

* Indexes down: Dow 0.2 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday following a pair of weak data points, though the S&P 500 remained within striking distance of an all-time intraday high.

Investors expect market movements to be slight ahead of the release Friday of the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report, with few major trading catalysts before then. The S&P has gained about 0.1 percent so far this week.

The latest ADP National Employment Report showed 158,000 private sector jobs were added in March, far less than economists had expected, though the February report was revised upward by 39,000.

The Institute for Supply Management's March services sector index came in at 54.4, below expectations for a reading of 55.8 and below last month's 56.0.

The S&P has been near its record level of 1,576.09 for the past several sessions, and inched to within three points of it on Tuesday before pulling back, though it ended at a new closing high. It is currently 0.5 percent away from its record peak.

"There are risks out there, but we've been creeping up quietly for a long time with an impressive cumulative gain, and that will continue so long as we don't have a crisis in the offing," said David Kelly, chief market strategist for JPMorgan Funds in New York.

While data has largely been positive and helped to propel the equity market in the first quarter, a few disappointments have made investors cautious. The ISM manufacturing index on Monday came in below expectations.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 29.84 points, or 0.20 percent, at 14,632.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 5.03 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,565.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 5.54 points, or 0.17 percent, at 3,249.32.

The S&P 500 has advanced more than 10 percent this year, and last week, broke above its 2007 closing high, a level it exceeded on Tuesday. The Dow first broke above its 2007 record on March 5.

In company news, Zynga Inc surged 11 percent to $3.40 after the company said it would begin offering poker and casino-style games in Britain in partnership with Bwin.party Digital Entertainment.

ConAgra Foods Inc fell 1.3 percent to $35.09 after reporting third-quarter earnings that fell 57 percent, though revenue grew.

Monsanto Co rose 1.2 percent to $104.93 after raising its full-year profit forecast.

Issues in the euro zone will continue to be in focus a day after Cyprus concluded a bailout deal. The plan, which still requires ratification, would mean the country receives a 10 billion euro loan and that it has until 2018 to carry out measures to shore up its finances. The country's finance minister resigned after concluding the deal.

While investors have largely used any market decline as a buying opportunity, the situation in Cyprus has been a major source of market uncertainty in recent weeks.




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