Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 20, 2015.
Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were lower on Wednesday, with indexes on track for a second straight day of declines, as a recent rally gave investors reason to exercise caution.
After a sluggish start to the year, equities charged higher in February, helping send both the Dow and S&P to record highs on Monday, and the Nasdaq hurdled the 5,000 level for the first time in 15 years.
Economic data continued to point to a slowly accelerating U.S. economy, increasing the likelihood the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin to hike interest rates at some point this year.
“We’ve had this big move, we are extended. I don’t think the market is particularly overvalued or particularly expensive but it’s not cheap,” said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
“It’s less about the recent economic data and more where we are today, and it’s more about looking forward to monetary policy changing as well.”
The ADP National Employment Report showed private employers added 212,000 jobs in February, short of the 220,000 forecast, although January’s reading was revised upward to 250,000 from the initial 213,000.
Readings on the services sector from financial data firm Markit and the Institute for Supply Management both pointed to modest growth.
Investors will deal with a flurry of economic data for the rest of the week, culminating with the Labor Department’s February payrolls report, which will be eyed to help gauge the timing of a rate hike.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 124.77 points, or 0.69 percent, to 18,078.6, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 13.41 points, or 0.64 percent, to 2,094.37 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 19.01 points, or 0.38 percent, to 4,960.89.
Bob Evans Farms (BOBE.O) said it was not currently looking at selling or spinning off its food-products business and was evaluating strategic options for all or part of its real-estate assets. Shares of the restaurant and packaged food company plunged 22.6 percent to $46.15.
Abercombie & Fitch (ANF.N) slumped 14.9 percent to $20.42 after the teen apparel retailer said its quarterly profit fell by a third. But fellow apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters (AEO.N) jumped 8.3 percent to $16.05 after better-than-expected fourth quarter sales.
Alcoa (AA.N) fell 5.9 percent to $14.29 after Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut the stock to a “neutral” rating.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,068 to 849, for a 2.44-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,589 issues fell and 951 advanced, for a 1.67-to-1 ratio.
The S&P 500 index was posting 7 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 34 new highs and 39 new lows.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)
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