U.S. stocks fall before jobs report

U.S. stocks fell, after benchmark indexes climbed to records, as consumer and technology shares slumped before the government’s monthly jobs report tomorrow.

An index of biotechnology shares plunged 2.7 percent, halting a three-day rally. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.9 percent after four straight gains. Barnes & Noble Inc. plunged 14 percent as investor Liberty Media Corp. said it will reduce its stake in the bookstore chain. Google Inc. Class A shares added 0.6 percent while its Class C shares rose 0.5 percent after stock in the largest search engine effectively split. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. surged 15 percent to a record after settling federal environmental claims.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (CME:SPM14) slipped 0.1 percent to 1,888.77 at 4 p.m. in New York after closing the past two days at a record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.45 point to 16,572.55. The gauge earlier touched an all-time high before closing within five points of its record. About 6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 13 percent less than the three- month average.

“The market still wants to be positive and has this feeling of goodwill, but at times it runs into a little bit of resistance,” Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC, which manages $4.5 billion, said in a phone interview. “Nobody wants to buy at an all-time high, and that’s where we are. People are a little bit more cautious. As we get closer to the payroll report, we’ll be in wait and see mode.”

The S&P 500 rose for a fourth day yesterday to a record 1,890.90, after a private report showing companies added to payrolls last month fueled optimism on growth in the economy.

The equities benchmark climbed 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2014, its fifth consecutive quarterly advance, and now trades at 17.4 times reported earnings. That’s the highest level since 2010 and 11 percent above its five-year average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Small Caps

The Russell 2000 Index dropped 1 percent to halt a four-day rally. The measure of small companies plunged 3.5 percent last week.

Data today showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week after reaching a six-month low, a sign that progress in the labor market remains fitful.

The government’s monthly jobs report due tomorrow will show that hiring increased in March, according to forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.

The Institute for Supply Management’s services index advanced to 53.1 last month from 51.6 in February, which was the slowest pace of expansion in four years. Economists predicted an increase to 53.5.

Reports from hiring to factory output had shown weakness this year as freezing temperatures and mountains of snow kept shoppers indoors, grounded flights and made it harder for shippers to fill product orders

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