Wall Street Eases After Big Rally


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The markets pulled back slightly after posting a strong rally in the last session as traders shifted their focus back to the U.S. economy and braced for the looming debt battle in Congress.

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Today's Markets

As of 3:10 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 18.9 points, or 0.14%, to 13393, the S&P 500 dipped 2.9 points, or 0.2%, to 1459 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 10.9 points, or 0.35%, to 3101.

The markets posted a big rally to kick off the new year on Wednesday as traders cheered a long-awaited fiscal cliff agreement in Congress. Indeed, the broad S&P 500 closed at its highest level since September.

With the saga in Washington over for the moment, traders once again got to mull a handful of important economic reports on the day.

Members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting board offered mixed opinions on how long the central bank will continue on its highly-expansionary asset-purchase program at its December meeting, according to minutes released Thursday. The minutes said a few members believed ongoing purchases would be warranted until the end of 2013, others thought it would be possible to stop or slow them before the end of 2013, others didn’t specify a timeframe and a single member viewed any additional purchases as unwarranted.

The ADP national employment report showed the private sector added 215,000 jobs in December. Analysts had expected an increase of 133,000 jobs for the month. Another report on the labor market from Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed planned layoffs at U.S. firms plunged 43% in December from the month before to 32,556. The Labor Department said the number of individuals applying for first-time jobless benefits last week climbed by 10,000 to 372,000.

The all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is on tap for Friday. Economists expect the U.S. economy to have tacked on 150,000 jobs in December, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 7.7%.

Commodities were little changed. The benchmark crude oil contract fell 20 cents, or 0.21%, to $92.92 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.09% to $2.778 a gallon. In metals, gold fell $14.20, or 0.84% to $1,675 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.37% to 2701, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.33% to 6047 and the German DAX slumped 0.29% to 7756.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 jumped 0.7% to 10395 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.37% to 23398.