NEW YORK - U.S. stocks slipped on Wednesday after ISM data showed the U.S. services sector grew in December, but at a marginal pace, and a report said the rate of job losses slowed at U.S. private employers.
The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 50.1 in December from 48.7 in November. The reading was below economists' forecast of 50.5, according to a Reuters survey. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Pretty much right on spot, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
The market seems like it wants to go higher, but we will need confirming numbers on Friday morning. In the meantime, precious little will take place.
The non-farm payrolls report from the U.S. Labor Department is due on Friday, with economists now forecasting 8,000 jobs lost overall in December versus the 11,000 lost in November.
Earlier data on Wednesday in the ADP Employment Services report, a precursor to Friday's payrolls report, showed job losses slowed in December from November's pace. The ADP data showed the private sector lost 84,000 jobs in December, down sharply from the 145,000 jobs lost in November, but exceeding economists' forecasts for a December loss of 73,000 jobs.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dipped 7.26 points, or 0.07 percent, to 10,564.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> shed 1.08 points, or 0.10 percent, to 1,135.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> slipped 7.13 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,301.58.
Earlier, two of the three major indexes hit fresh 52-week highs. The S&P 500 climbed to an intraday 52-week high at 1,138.17, and the Nasdaq advanced to an intraday 52-week high at 2,314.07.
Weighing on the Dow was Travelers Companies , down 1.7 percent at $47.79, after FBR cut the stock of the auto and home owners' insurer to market perform from outperform.
But 3M Co , up 2.1 percent at $84.20, supported the Dow after Goldman Sachs added the stock to its Americas conviction buy list and said stronger-than-expected results in October-November likely continued for the diversified manufacturer in December.
Another bright spot came from Family Dollar Stores Inc , which shot up 11.6 percent to $30.68 after the retailer reported first-quarter earnings that beat expectations. Rival 99 Cents Only Stores climbed 7.4 percent to $14.34.
In contrast, Walgreen Co shed 0.5 percent to $36.80 after the retailer said sales at its drugstores open for at least a year fell in December instead of rising as Wall Street had expected.
Dow Chemical Co jumped 2.2 percent to $31.14 after Barclays Capital upgraded the stock to overweight from equal-weight.
U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd was expected to announce he will not seek re-election, sources said. The Connecticut Democrat has been dogged by questions over his financial industry connections and faces a tough re-election bid. The S&P Financial Index <.GSPF> added 0.4 percent and the KBW Bank Index <.BKX> rose 1.2 percent.
At 2 p.m. (1900 GMT), the Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes from its mid-December meeting.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)