U.S. stocks traded lower Wednesday, with the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average dropping more than 150 points, as mixed economic data weighed on investor sentiment. Oil prices declined, hovering around $50 a barrel, after crude inventories surged to the highest ever on record, causing concerns over a supply glut.
Meanwhile, private-sector job creation grew less than expected in February, while the U.S. services sector grew stronger than anticipated last month.
During morning trading, the Dow, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, dropped 155.98 points, or 0.86 percent, to 18,047.39; the S&P 500 stock index fell 17.15 points, or 0.81 percent, to 2,090.59. The Nasdaq Composite lost 31.69 points, or 0.64 percent, to 4,948.31.
Crude Inventories Rise, Signaling Supply Buildup
Oil prices traded lower Wednesday after data showed U.S. crude inventories hit another record high for the eighth straight week. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories rose by 10.3 million barrels from the previous week to a record 444.4 million, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday. U.S. crude oil inventories were the highest on record and remained at the highest level for this time of year in at least the last 80 years.
Following the report, West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, fell 0.22 percent, to $50.41 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, lost 1.59 percent, to $60.05 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
Private-Sector Job Creation Slows in February
Data Wednesday revealed private-sector job creation grew less than expected in February, with a gain of 212,000 for the month, the slowest pace since August 2014, according to a report from ADP. Economists had expected an increase of 220,000 last month, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. However, the January private payrolls report was revised up to 250,000.
The ADP data is widely considered to be a pre-indicator of the government’s jobs report due out Friday. The U.S. added 257,000 jobs in January, marking the 11th straight month of job gains over the 200,000 mark. The U.S. nonfarm payrolls report Friday is expected to show U.S. employers added 240,000 jobs in February, down from 257,000 in January, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 5.6 percent last month after rising to 5.7 percent in January.
Fed’s Beige Book To Reveal Health Of Energy Sector
The U.S. Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its “Beige Book” Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST, which the central bank publishes eight times a year, highlighting the current condition of the U.S. economy within the central bank's 12 districts. The previous Beige Book, published in January, revealed that plunging oil prices since June are beginning to show negative effects in regions that operate heavily within the energy industry, as oil firms reported layoffs and hiring freezes.