U.S. shares dropped in early trading Wednesday as investors weighed whether upbeat employment figures would prod the Federal Reserve to further reduce its stimulus program. Private employers added 238,000 jobs in December, the highest since November 2012, according to Wednesday's Automated Data Processing report.
The Dow dipped 0.6 percent to 1,6431.21 points, Standard & Poor's settled 0.08 percent to 1,836.48 points and the Nasdaq drooped 0.1 percent to 4,139.08 points as of 9:30 a.m. East Coast time.
The ADA report follows a revised gain of 229,000 in November, surpassing the increase of 200,000 jobs that analysts had predicted.
Later on Wednesday, attention will turn to the Federal Open Market Report minutes for the Fed's Dec. 17-18 meeting as investors try to glean clues about the future of the Fed stimulus.
A highly anticipated report from the Labor Department on Friday is expected to show an increase in nonfarm employment of 195,000 jobs in December, with unemployment hovering at a four-year low of 7 percent. That report includes government jobs as well as private-sector ones, and will take into account this month's unusually severe weather, sources say.
Alcoa will make its influential fourth-quarter earnings report after the market closes on Thursday.
ICN.com Financial Markets contributed to this report.
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