Stocks pared losses and briefly turned positive on Wednesday following data that showed an index of manufacturing activity rose more than expected in March, while sales of existing homes rose in February.

Existing homes sales rose 2.1 percent in February after a 7.7 percent decline in January.

The U.S. private sector shed 742,000 jobs in March.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 1.27 points, or 0.02 percent, to 7,610.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> shed 0.46 points, or 0.06 percent, to 797.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 4.60 points, or 0.30 percent, to 1,523.99.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish)