U.S. stocks wavered between small gains and losses in early trade on Wednesday after ADP National Employment report showed that the private sector employment rose more than expected in February, but rising oil prices and Middle East tensions offset optimism.
The S&P 500 Index gained 0.78 points, or 0.06 percent, to trade at 1,307.11 at 9:40 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 5.98 points, or 0.05 percent, to trade at 12,064.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.15 percent.
Employment in the US private sector rose more than expected in February, posting a gain for a fifth straight month. On seasonally adjusted basis, private-sector employment rose 217,000 in February, from upwardly revised gain of 189,000 in January, while economists estimated an increase by 175,000.
A significant part of employment growth in February came from the services sector, where jobs rose by 202,000, recording an increase for thirteen months in a row. Manufacturing sector posted a gain of 20,000 jobs, while the construction employment dropped by 9,000. However, jobs growth in financial services remained flat in the month.
Fears of a supply disruption arising from continued unrest in Libya have pushed up oil prices above $100/barrel, but a leading Libyan oil official warns they could spike even higher if there is no immediate resolution to the ongoing violence.
Meanwhile, supporters of Moammar Gaddafi are reportedly moving into the eastern part of the country which is largely in the hands of the opposition and have captured an oil installation in the city of Brega.
On the corporate front, MetLife, Inc. (NYSE:MET) shares declined 3.48 percent. The company announced plans to offer 68,570,000 shares of its common stock to the public.
Shares of Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE:TXN) advanced 1.89 percent after the company stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “neutral” rating at JPMorgan.
Crude oil futures gained 0.79 percent to $100.42/barrel and gold futures advanced 0.26 percent.
The euro gained 0.49 percent to 1.3844 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.05 percent against the greenback.
European stock markets are currently trading lower with FTSE 100 down by 24.48 points, DAX30 down by 47.09 points and CAC 40 down by 30.34 points.