U.S. equity markets were mixed overnight after a report showed employers in the private sector made fewer hires in April than expected, casting doubt on the strength of Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report.
By the close, the NASDAQ had added nine points to 3060, with the Dow Jones easing 11 points to 13,269.
Private-sector payrolls increased 119,000 in April, led by the service-providing sector and small and medium businesses, according to the ADP employment report. The March level was revised to a gain of 201,000 from a prior estimate of 209,000.
Markets look to ADP's report on private-sector payrolls to provide some guidance on the U.S. Labor Department's jobs estimate, which will be released Friday.
Economists polled by MarketWatch expect the U.S. Labor Department to report Friday that nonfarm-payroll employment rose 163,000 in April, compared with 120,000 in March. They also expect that the unemployment rate remained at 8.2%.
In corporate news, Mastercard (NYSE:MA), the world's second-largest credit card network, Wednesday posted a 21 percent rise in first-quarter earnings as consumers spent more and revenue rose faster than expenses.
For the first three months of the year, Mastercard said net income was $682 million, or $5.36 per share, compared with $562 million, or $4.29 per share, a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected a profit of $5.30 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.
After the closing bell, earnings are due for credit card giant Visa (NYSE:V), insurer Allstate (NYSE:ALL) and Keurig home coffee
machine company Green Mountain Coffee (NASDAQ:GMCR).
Cable and Internet provider Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSA) reported Wednesday first-quarter earnings jumped 30 percent on the back of Super Bowl advertising and growth for its high-speed Internet services.
CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) reported its first-quarter earnings and revenues grew, helped by its pharmacy services unit and due to an extra day due to the leap year, though margins eased.
Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) said Wednesday that first-quarter earnings were 11 percent lower but adjusted income beat Street expectations on the company's television and movie studio businesses.
Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ:ASNA) Wednesday got a little larger as it acquired plus-sized clothing retailer Charming Shoppes
(NASDAQ:CHRS), owner of Lane Bryant, for about $890 million.
On the economic front, the Commerce Department said orders for factory goods fell 1.5 percent, the steepest decline since March 2009, when the economy was mired in recession. Orders rose 1.1 percent in February.
Aircraft orders plummeted nearly 50 percent. But excluding transportation goods, orders were unchanged. Demand for less durable items, such as food, chemicals and gasoline, rose 0.5 percent.
On the NYMEX, crude for June delivery declined 94 cents, or 0.9%, to end at $105.22 a barrel and gold for June delivery was off $8.40, or 0.5%, to end at $1,654 an ounce.
Unemployment across the European Union remained at 10.2% in March, according to a government report Wednesday. But the 17-nation eurozone unemployment edged higher to 10.9%, from 10.8% in February.
Standard & Poor's also raised its ratings on Greece to "CCC," pulling the country out of selective default.
Markets ended mixed with the FTSE 100 finishing down almost 1%, the DAX closed 0.8% lower while the CAC 40 edged up 0.36%.
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