U.S. stocks turned marginally higher Wednesday as investors combed through economic reports on the service sector and private-sector labor market, ahead of the key employment report due Friday.
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Data from the Automatic Data Processing showed 179,000 jobs were created by the private sector in July, slightly above estimates.
The ADP reading, although carrying a spotty record of predicting the official jobs figure, tends to set the tone for the closely watched July nonfarm payrolls report due Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered near the flatline at 18,323, but was most recently in the green, supported by a 1.4% gain in shares of Goldman Sachs Group, which was contributing about 12 points to the blue-chip gauge. The Dow is trying to snap an eight-day stretch of declines.
The main indexes have been drifting south over the past several sessions as investors question the pace of economic growth and fret about swooning global economies.
Analysts have said a recent spate of soft economic data and a slump in oil prices into bear-market territory have combined to reignite concerns about the global market and sapped appetite for assets considered risky.
"There is a loss of momentum and breadth in the market, especially after the weak GDP print and worries that we will see a repeat of lower oil prices," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
The highly anticipated Friday's official jobs report will be viewed through the lens of the monetary policy, according to analysts. Economists polled by MarketWatch are expecting 185,000 jobs created last month. The past two readings have been volatile. A report in June showed jobs gains of 287,000 contrasting sharply with a data in May, which was cut, that showed a troubling 11,000 jobs gained during the month.
"The labor market remains an area of concern for the Fed, and despite alluding to the possibility of a rate hike this year, if labor market data are poor we are unlikely to see a rate hike over the remainder of 2016," said Ana Thaker, market economist at PhillipCapital UK, in a note.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index was little changed immediately after the ADP report, trading up 0.2% at 95.25.
Fed front: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans is expected to speak to news outlets at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday.
One person not ruling out a rate increase in the near future is Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, "At this point I don't rule out a rate increase at the next meeting or later in the year," Lockhart said Tuesday in an interview on CNBC.
In addition to the ADP report, Markit released its final reading on activity in the services sector in July, showing it was unchanged in July at 51.4 and revised from the preliminary reading of 50.9.
The Institute for Supply Management's services sector index dropped to 55.5 in July, below expectations of 56.
Corporate reports:Time Warner Inc.(NYSE:TWX) shares climbed 2.3% after the media company reported improved second-quarter earnings and said it is invested 10% in streaming service Hulu, a joint venture of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS), 21st Century Fox.(NASDAQ:FOXA) and Comcast Corp.(NASDAQ:CMCSA).
Fitbit Inc. (NYSE:FIT), the maker of fitness-tracking wristbands, jumped 9% after quarterly sales and earnings beat projections
American International Group Inc.(NYSE:AIG) shares rallied after the insurer reported better-than-expected second-quarter results late Tuesday.
Shares of Intercontinental Exchange Inc.(NYSE:ICE), which operates the New York Stock Exchange beat earnings estimates, sending shares 3.2% higher.
Kate Spade & Co.(NASDAQ:KATE) shares slid 21% after the clothing and accessories company lowered its full-year 2016 forecast.
Genworth Financial Inc.(NYSE:GNW) shares surged over 20% after the insurance holding firm turned in quarterly results topped Wall Street estimates.
Etsy Inc. (NASDAQ:ETSY) shares jumped 7% after the crafts clearinghouse late Tuesday reported a 39% revenue growth and boosted guidance, even though earnings per share came in slightly below estimates.
Community Health Systems Inc.(NYSE:CYH) shares slumped about 5%after the hospital operator reported second-quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street estimates