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The markets slipped into the red on Wednesday after a tepid jobs report quelled traders' buying appetite.
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As of 12:14 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.4 points, or 0.03%, to 15623, the S&P 500 dipped 0.46 point, or 0.03%, to 1706 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 7.4 points, or 0.2%, to 3683.
The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in July, a slimmer gain than estimates of 184,000. The jobless rate fell by 0.2 percentage point to 7.4% -- the lowest since December 2008, and below the forecast of 7.5%. The labor force participation rate, which gauges the proportion of the population in the labor force, fell to 63.4% from 63.5%.
Market participants said the report was solid, but still pointed to stubbornly-slow job growth.
"The reality of a still mediocre economy was evident in today’s payroll figure," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
Echoing that view, Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays, wrote to clients that the dip in the jobless rate "was the beginning and end of the better-than-expected news from the July employment report." He went on to say that "all other features were on the soft side of expectations."
The report has taken on even more significance recently as traders try to figure out when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its vast bond-buying program and eventually hike interest rates. The central bank has repeatedly said it plans on starting to push overnight rates higher when the jobless rate moves down to around 6.5%.
The Commerce Department said consumer spending climbed 0.5% in June from May, matching Wall Street’s expectations. Personal income inched up by 0.3%, slightly shy of estimates of a 0.4% increase.
A separate report from Commerce showed orders placed with U.S. factories rising 1.5% in June, falling short of estimates of 2.3%. The move was led by a big increase in the transportation segment.
On the corporate front, AIG (NYSE:AIG) posted better-than-expected quarterly profits and resumed its dividend for the first time since the financial crisis. Dell's(NASDAQ:DELL) special committee and a buyout group led by founder Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners reached a fresh deal ahead of a key shareholder vote.
Elsewhere, gold prices tumbled $25.10, or 1.9%, to $1,286 a troy ounce. Oil dipped 19 cents, or 0.18%, to $107.70 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slumped 0.53% to $3.012 a gallon.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.11% to 2812, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.22% to 6667 and the German DAX climbed 0.1% to 8419.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 3.3% to 14466 and the Chinese Hang Seng drifted higher by 0.46% to 22191.