US stocks sink in early trading as market heads for a second loss; Alcoa falls most in S&P 500

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

The stock market sank early Wednesday, drifting further from record highs. The drop in early trading was modest but broad: all 10 sectors of the Standard & Poor's 500 headed lower.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was down 134 points, or 0.7 percent, to 18,069 as of 10:06 a.m. Eastern time.

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The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 15 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,093. The Nasdaq composite fell 33 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,947.

MELTING, MELTING: Alcoa's stock dropped 6 percent, the biggest drop in the S&P 500, following news that analysts at Bank of America cut their ratings on the aluminum giant. BofA's analysts expect prices for aluminum to lose strength as China increases its exports. Alcoa lost 96 cents to $14.22.

JOBS: A survey showed U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in February, the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year. ADP, a company which handles payrolls, said private employers added 212,000 workers last month. The survey comes just ahead of the government's release of its monthly employment report on Friday. Economists forecast that the economy added 240,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate slipped to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent.

ANALYST'S TAKE: The U.S. economy appears steady despite reports out earlier this week showing declines in construction spending and vehicle sales, according to Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "We expect another fairly strong rise in payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate in the February employment report on Friday," said O'Sullivan, in a report to clients.

EUROPE: France's CAC-40 added 0.2 percent while Germany's DAX slipped 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 sank 0.3 percent.

EUROZONE MOMENTUM: Two reports showed hints of life in Europe's economy. Retail sales increased by 1.1 percent in January, the first time since records began in 2000 that they've grown for four consecutive months. Meanwhile, a key gauge of business activity showed growth in February across all four of the region's biggest economies: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

ASIA'S DAY: In Japan, the Nikkei 225 lost 0.6 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 1 percent, and the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent. India's Sensex gained 0.8 percent to after the central bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark lending rate.

CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude slipped four cents to $50.48 a barrel in New York trading.

CURRENCIES, BONDS: The dollar was little changed at 119.60 yen from 119.66 yen the day before. The euro fell to $1.1083 from $1.1180. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.11 percent from 2.12 percent late Tuesday.