Wall Street Logs Longest Slump Since September

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The Dow and S&P 500 slumped for the fourth day in a row Wednesday after strong economic data ignited worries about when the Fed will begin its exit from QE3. 

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 24.9 points, or 0.16%, to 15890, the S&P 500 declined 2.3 points, or 0.13%, to 1793 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.8 point, or 0.02%, to 4038.

The Dow and the S&P 500 have both fallen for the past four sessions as worries have swirled about when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its massive bond-buying operation. A flood of economic data due out on Wednesday helped shed more light on the situation. 

The Commerce Department said sales of new, single-family homes jumped 25.4% in October from the month before to an annual rate of 444,000 units, topping expectations of a 428,000-unit rate. The spike was the biggest since 1980.

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The American private sector added 215,000 jobs in November, according to a report from payroll processor ADP. Economists expected a slimmer gain of 173,000. The data come ahead of the all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department due out on Friday. 

The U.S. trade gap fell to $40.6 billion in October from $43 billion the month prior, coming in just slightly higher than estimates of $40 billion. The dip comes as exports jumped 1.8%, compared to a 0.4% increase in imports. While the data is a lagging indicator, it figures directly into measures of fourth-quarter GDP. 

The Institute for Supply Management’s gauge of service-sector activity fell to 53.9 in November from 55.4 the month prior, missing expectations of a shallower fall to 55. Readings above 50 point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.

The Federal Reserve said in its anecdotal Beige Book report the U.S. economy grew at a ‘modest to moderate’ pace in early October through mid-November, with hiring increasing in some districts. Meanwhile, price and wage inflation remained ‘contained.’

In commodities, U.S. crude oil prices climbed 1.2% to $97.20 a barrel after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries renewed its 30-million-barrel-a-day production cap. 

On the corporate front, the European Union fined eight financial giants, from JP Morgan Chase (JPM) to Deutsche Bank (DB), a record $2.3 billion for collusion in rigging benchmark interest rate. Citigroup (C) came under pressure after it was booted from Goldman Sachs' coveted conviction buy list. 

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