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The Dow rallied on the back of a strong performance by heavyweights like insurer Travelers and industrial behemoth Caterpillar. However, the Nasdaq took a fall as shares of technology juggernaut Apple tumbled by the widest margin in four years.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 82.7 points, or 0.64%, to 13034, the S&P 500 gained 2.2 points, or 0.16%, to 1409 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 23 points, or 0.77%, to 2974. The FOX 50 dipped 0.4 point to 1039.
The utility, financial and industrial sectors all posted solid gains on the day. However, on the other side of this spectrum, technology and materials shares slipped.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares fell more than 6%, making it the worst performer of the Nasdaq 100. Traders blamed the move on a confluence of factors, including disappointment that the company appears to not be planning a special dividend before the end of the year and media reports that margin requirements are being raised by certain firms (potentially causing margin calls). The company is America's largest by market capitalization and has an outsize pull on the broader markets.
The ADP National Employment report showed the private sector added 118,000 jobs in November, missing expectations of 125,000 jobs created. Digging into the report, large businesses led the hiring with 66,000 jobs, followed by medium businesses at 33,000 jobs at small businesses at 19,000.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which collaborates on the report, said in a conference call "several crosscurrents" impacted the reading. In particular, he reckons Hurricane Sandy cut 86,000 jobs for the overall reading. He said manufacturing and small businesses were impacted especially severely by the superstorm. Also, the early timing of Thanksgiving added between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs that Zandi expects will come out of the December numbers.
This report comes out ahead of the all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department. Overall, economists expect the economy to have tacked on 93,000 jobs in November, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.9%.
The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing PMI increased to 54.7 in November from 54.2 in October, compared to expectations of a drop to 53.5. That indicates the services sector expanded at a slightly faster pace that month. A separate report from the Commerce Department showed factory orders climbing 0.8% in October from September, better than forecasts of no change.
On the corporate front, Citigroup (NYSE:C) said it will slash 11,000 jobs and take a $1 billion fourth-quarter charge as part of a 'repositioning.' This comes at the banking giant looks to lean out its operations amid a new financial landscape.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) announced it will acquire Plains Exploration & Production Company (NYSE:PXP) and McMoRan Exploration Co. (NYSE:MMR) in a $20 billion deal. The deal will create a behemoth in the energy and materials industries.
Trading desks already had a busy day, with several reports being released in Europe. The eurozone services sector contracted at a slightly slower pace in November. Germany, the 17-member currency bloc's economic powerhouse, saw its contraction slow to near break-even territory, while France's contraction picked up steam. A separate report showed eurozone retail sales sinking 1.2% in October from the month before.
"European data continue to signal sluggish economic activity," analysts at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.
Elsewhere, commodities markets were little changed. The benchmark crude oil contract edged lower by 37 cents, or 0.4%, to $88.16 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.46% to $2.677 a gallon. In metals, gold dipped $5.20, or 0.32%, to $1,691 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.05% to 2592, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.39% to 5892 and the German DAX ticked up by 0.26% to 7455.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 climbed 0.39% to 9569 and the Chinese Hang Seng surged 2.2% to 22271.