U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as weaker jobs and regional manufacturing data dented hopes of improvements in the economy, and a rating downgrade of five Greek banks heightened worries about the euro zone economies.

Early morning losses were capped, however, by gains in the energy sector, which got a boost with stronger oil prices near $83 a barrel.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index showed business activity in the U.S. Midwest slipped to 58.8 in March, falling short of economists' consensus forecast.

The ADP jobs report earlier on Wednesday showed U.S. private employers shed 23,000 jobs this month, missing expectations for a rise of 40,000 jobs.

Most importantly today is the Chicago PMI, which is a March number, and the ADP report, and that's why equities are down, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak + Co in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 24.19 points, or 0.22 percent, at 10,883.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 2.20 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,171.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 1.11 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,409.58.

The S&P 500 is up 73.4 percent from the March 2009 bottom and on track for a fourth straight quarterly gain. The index is also up 5 percent for the quarter so far, the Dow is up 4.3 percent and the Nasdaq is up 6.2 percent.

Investors put more weight on the jobs report this week as the U.S. stock market will be closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday, when the highly anticipated U.S. nonfarm payrolls data is out.

The expectation was that the labor market had a significant turnaround last month, according to economists.

Further souring investor sentiment, Moody's Investors Service downgraded five banks in Greece on weakened financial strength as the country struggles with its deficit.

A separate report by the U.S. Commerce Department showed orders for manufactured goods increased 0.6 percent in February, slightly higher than forecast. But the report did little to lift equities.

SAIC Inc fell 7.5 percent to $17.58 after the company reported quarterly results after Tuesday's close.

But manufacturer Honeywell International Inc gained 1 percent to $45.38 after the company raised its first-quarter profit outlook.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)