12:35 PM New York – U.S. market indexes pulled back after the latest data on private sector net job addition was weaker than expected. In addition, the latest survey on the dominant service sector in the economy also indicated a slowdown.
Stocks edged lower from the recent highs after the latest hiring data from companies was smaller than expected and service sector index showed a decline in growth.
The S&P 500 index declined 9.9 or 0.6% to 1,560 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 52.8 or 0.4% to 14,609.
Private Sector Add Fewest Workers in Five Months
Private companies added 158,000 jobs last month according to the latest survey released by ADP and Moody’s Analytics.
The increase in employment slowed down after home builders added fewer jobs. Labor economists estimated previous two months data may have been boosted by the short term rebuilding projects following winter storms.
The March net increase was the smallest since October and February data was revised higher to 237,000 from the previous estimate of 198,000. January data was revised lower to 177,000 from 215,000.
Investors are looking ahead to the employment report on Friday that is expected to show an increase of 200,000 in both public and private sectors. Unemployment rate is expected to be steady at 7.7%.
Service Sector Growth Slows
The U.S. service sector growth slowed in March according to the latest non-manufacturing index released by the ISM.
The Institute of Supply Management said its service index declined to 54.4 from 56 in February and the forward-looking new orders index fell to 54.6 from 58.2.
The service sector which is nearly three times larger than the manufacturing sector has been resilient and the index has held above the 50 mark, an indication of growth, since the beginning of 2010.
Markets in Europe closed lower on the growing worries that the debt crisis is far from over and recent market gains may have been overdone.
FTSE 100 index in London decreased 1.1% to 6,420 and the DAX index dropped 0.9% to 7,875. In Paris, CAC 40 index fell 1.3% to 3,755.
Stocks in Review
Acuity Brands, Inc.
) soared 7.3% or $4.99 to $73.24 after the lighting solution provider said revenue in the second quarter ending on February jumped 6% to $486.7 million. Net income in the quarter surged 27% to $24.7 million or 57 cents a diluted share compared to $19.5 million or 46 cents.
ConAgra Foods, Inc.
) fell 13 cents to $35.41 after the packaged food company stated revenue in the third quarter ending on February 24 climbed 13.4% to $3.85 billion. Net income in the quarter declined 56% to $123.4 million or 29 cents a diluted share compared to $280.7 million or 67 cents.
The company reaffirms expectations for fiscal 2013 diluted earnings per share to be nearly $2.15.
) surged 10.4% or $3.77 to $39.85 after the consumer products retailer reported revenue in the fourth quarter ending in January soared 10.4% to $250.3 million. Same store sales in the quarter climbed 7%.
Net income in the quarter surged 130% to $17.7 million or 50 cents a diluted share compared to $7.7 million or 24 cents.