Stocks recovered from an early decline to end narrowly mixed Wednesday, but worries over the weak ADP employment report kept investors on edge ahead of Friday's key jobs data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 10.75 points, or 0.08 percent, to close at 13,268.57, weighed down by BofA and Alcoa , giving back gains from the previous session when the index closed at its highest level in more than four years .
The S&P 500 erased 3.51 points, or 0.25 percent, to finish at 1,402.31, but still held above the 1,400 milestone. The Nasdaq rose 9.41 points, or 0.31 percent, to end at 3,059.85.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, gained near 17.
Among the key S&P sectors, energy led the laggards, while consumer discretionary closed higher.
Stocks slumped at the open following news that employers in the private sector added just 119,000 jobs in April , according to the ADP report, well below expectations for 170,000.
The report is closely watched ahead of the key monthly government jobs report, due at the end of the week. Economists surveyed by Reuters estimate employers added 170,000 jobs last month, following a tepid 120,000 gain in the month prior.
Adding to earlier market pressure, factory orders fell 1.5 percent in March, logging their biggest drop in three years , according to the Commerce Department.
“[The market] is still cheap,” said Steve Auth, CIO of global equities at Federated Investors on CNBC’s “ Street Signs ,” although he warned of a small pullback in the near-term due to Friday’s jobs numbers, which “may be weak.”
“But we think we’re in a new secular bull market for equities,” Auth continued. “Over the next couple years, you could see 1,650 [on the S&P]—we have a target of 1,450 for the end of the year. We would be buying cyclicals—materials and industrials since those two have lagged the run this year.”
Chesapeake Energy tumbled almost 15 percent to lead the S&P 500 laggards a day after the firm posted disappointing earnings . Chesapeake has lost almost $4 billion, or nearly 26 percent, of its market cap value in the past month. In addition, Citigroup and UBS cut their price target on the firm, while Baird lowered its rating on the company to "neutral."
This also comes after Chesapeake announced it would replace CEO and Chairman Aubrey McClendon and end a controversial program a year-and-a-half before it was scheduled to close.
Comcast beat earnings and revenue expectations , thanks to continuing growth in Internet subscribers and the start of a turnaround at the NBC broadcast business. Still, shares of CNBC's parent company were lower.
Time Warner said revenue rose 4 percent from the same period last year, but shares of the media conglomerate edged lower after the firm announced impairment charges kept it from posting higher quarterly earnings.
MasterCard posted earnings that topped Wall Street expectations as consumers spent more with their cards.
Visa , Whole Foods, Transocean and Symantec are among notable companies scheduled to post earnings after the closing bell.
Homebuilders including Pulte , Lennar and D.R. Horton rallied as the PHLX Housing Index hit new 3-1/2 year high.
LinkedIn's website suffered a brief outage issue earlier this morning, but the cause was not determined. Shares were trading lower.
The roadshow for Facebook’s highly-anticipated IPO is scheduled to start as early as Monday. And shares could begin trading as early as May 16 or May 17, according to sources, on the Nasdaq under the ticker “FB."
And Carlyle Groupplans to price its IPO between $22 and $23 a share, below its initial $23 to $25 range, according to sources. Trading is expected to start next Thursday on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "CG."
European shares finished lower after the euro zone manufacturing PMI came in at the lowest level since June 2009 and Germany's manufacturing sector shrank at the fastest pace in nearly three years in April.
China's manufacturing sector showed fresh signs of bottoming out in April, with export orders ticking up, but activity still contracted for a sixth consecutive month.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC —
Coming Up This Week: THURSDAY: Jobless claims, productivity and costs, ISM non-mfg index, chain-store sales, Nokia annual mtg, Verizon shareholders mtg; Earnings from GM, Kraft, AIG, LinkedInFRIDAY: Government non-farm payrolls, Alcoa shareholders mtg, Berkshire shareholders mtg; Earnings from Berkshire Hathaway
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