Wall St flat on sluggish services sector, Fed mins

 @ibtimes
on January 06 2010 3:16 PM

Wall Street was little changed on Wednesday after Federal Reserve officials said they were still worried about labor market weakness and a report on the services sector showed only slight improvement in the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) index showed the service sector hovered on the brink of expansion in December, while the ADP Employment Services report indicated 84,000 job losses in the private sector, compared with a forecast of 73,000.

Some Federal Reserve officials believed it might be desirable to step up asset purchases, Fed minutes from December released Wednesday showed. Officials were still worried about labor market weakness.

Earlier this week, November factory orders and the ISM December manufacturing survey came in stronger than expected, helping to drive stock indexes to their highest levels in over a year.

The latest economic numbers before today were well above consensus and fueled the thought of a V-shaped recovery, said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates, an investment advisory firm in Toledo, Ohio.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 8.16 points, or 0.08 percent, to 10,580.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 0.58 points, or 0.05 percent, to 1,137.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 7.83 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,300.88.

The less-than-inspiring ISM data weighed on service sectors, including telecommunications.

The S&P telecoms services index <.GSPT> dropped 0.6 percent, with CenturyTel Inc down 3.3 percent to $35.52, and Verizon Communications Inc off 2.4 percent to $32.08.

The Nasdaq was pushed lower by losses in big-cap technology issues, including Apple Inc , down 1 percent to $211.51, and Microsoft Corp down 0.7 percent to $30.73.

Weighing on the Dow was Travelers Cos Inc , down 1.7 percent at $47.82 after FBR cut its rating on the insurer to market perform from outperform.

Diversified manufacturer 3M Co was up 1.6 percent at $83.82, supporting the blue-chip index after Goldman Sachs added the stock to its Americas conviction buy list and said stronger-than-expected results in October and November likely continued in December.

Another bright spot was Family Dollar Stores Inc , up 11.6 percent to $30.68 after the retailer reported first-quarter earnings that beat expectations. Rival 99 Cents Only Stores climbed 2.9 percent to $13.73.

Walgreen Co shed nearly 1 percent to $36.68 after the drugstore chain said same-store sales fell in December instead of rising, as Wall Street had expected.

Dow Chemical Co jumped 2.8 percent to $31.34 after Barclays Capital upgraded the stock to overweight from equal-weight.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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