Stocks edged lower on Wednesday, beginning a fourth day of declines, after disappointing reports on the labor market and factory orders increased fears the rally may have run too far ahead of the economy.

The ADP survey of private-sector jobs is seen as a precursor to Friday's closely-watched monthly government figures on employment as investors look for any evidence that the S&P 500's 50-percent rally since early March may be stalling.

Highlighting those concerns, new orders received by U.S. factories rose a smaller-than-expected 1.3 percent in July, with a rise in aircraft orders countering sluggish demand for nondurable goods, government data showed.

(The data will) reinforce the opinion that we need a period of calm in the markets, said Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York. The data will add ammunition (against) the people who got too optimistic about the economy and markets too quickly.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 8.69 points, or 0.09 percent, at 9,301.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 1.83 points, or 0.18 percent, at 996.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 0.53 points, or 0.03 percent, a

U.S. private employers cut 298,000 jobs in August, the ADP and Macroeconomic Advisers said its National Employment Report, fewer than a revised 360,000 jobs lost in July, but more than the 250,000 mean forecast in a Reuters poll.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)