U.S. stocks closed lower Wednesday, extending two sessions of losses as a key report revealed U.S. employers created fewer-than-expected jobs last month. Declines Wednesday were driven by losses in the technology sector, including a more than 2 percent drop from the world's largest software company, Microsoft Corp.
Notable companies reporting quarterly results after the closing bell included Tesla Motors Inc., Whole Foods Market Inc., Wendy's International Inc., SodaStream International Ltd., Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and Zynga Inc.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dropped 86.22 points, or 0.48 percent, to close at 17,841.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) dipped 9.31 points, or 0.45 percent, to end at 2,080.15. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) fell 19.68 points, or 0.40 percent, to finish at 4,919.64.
Market professionals are looking ahead to Thursday’s economic calendar, which includes weekly jobless claims, or the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment, due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level since April 2000 as claims declined 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 262,000 for the week ended April 25, the Labor Department said last week.
Economists expect last week's jobless claims to have risen 16,000 to 280,000, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Technology companies were the largest decliners in the Dow on Wednesday, with software giant Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) the biggest laggard in the blue-chip index, dropping 2.7 percent, while chipmaker Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) lost 1.3 percent.
Microsoft has remained in focus this week following a Bloomberg report on Tuesday that said the company is evaluating a bid for cloud computing company Salesforce.com Inc. Shares of Microsoft have lost nearly 5 percent this week and have dipped 0.37 percent this year.
Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE:PG) was the largest gainer, edging up 0.4 percent.
However, the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index gained nearly 1 percent Wednesday after Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN) announced it will buy Synageva BioPharma Corp. (NASDAQ:GEVA) for $8.4 billion, which values Synageva at more than twice its current market value. Shares of Synageva surged 112 percent to close at $203.39, while shares of Alexion dropped 8 percent to end at $155.01.