Wall St dips as investors wary before jobs data
US stocks slipped as investors turned cautious ahead of Friday's monthly jobs report, while a drop in biotech and momentum shares dragged the Nasdaq down nearly 1 percent.
The Dow ended down just a fraction of a point, within about 4 points of its record closing high of 16,576.66 set on Dec. 31. The Dow posted an all-time intraday high during the session.
Market outperformers in the Internet and biotech sectors lost ground, resuming a selloff from March after some recent gains. Two weeks ago, biotechs suffered their worst day since 2011.
The Nasdaq biotechnology index slid 2.7 percent.
Investors were reluctant to make big bets ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls report, when they will be looking for evidence that recent weather-related weakness in the economy has passed.
The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.45 of a point to close at 16,572.55, after hitting an intraday record of 16,604.15.
The S&P 500 slipped 2.13 points or 0.11 percent, to finish at 1,888.77. It also hit an intraday record high of 1,893.80. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 38.716 points or 0.91 percent, to end at 4,237.74.
The Global X Social Media ETF, which includes Facebook, LinkedIn Corp and Groupon Inc, fell 3.4 percent.
On the economic front, the US trade deficit unexpectedly widened in February to $42.3 billion as exports hit a five-month low, suggesting that first-quarter growth could be much weaker than initially expected.
European shares rose, with some benchmark indexes hitting multi-year highs, after the European Central Bank opened the door for unconventional measures to thwart the risk of deflation.
Spanish stocks outpaced the broad market after a purchasing managers' survey for the services sector, which accounts for about half of Spain's economic output, expanded more than expected last month, fuelling hopes economic recovery is picking up pace.
Spanish banks led the rally, with BBVA jumping 3.6 percent and Banco Popular gaining 3.9 percent. Madrid's IBEX rose 1.4 percent to 10,584.1 points, a level not seen in nearly three years.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.1 percent higher at 1,345.18 points, gaining ground for the eighth consecutive session, its longest winning streak since October. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index rose 0.6 percent at 3,206.76 points, a level not seen in 5-1/2 years.
In commodities markets, gold and copper prices were weighed by the strength in the greenback. Spot gold fell 0.3 percent to $1,285.30 an ounce, and three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 0.5 percent at $6,639.
Brent crude rose above $106 a barrel a day after hitting a five-month low, as expectations of a deal to reopen vital Libyan oil ports were balanced by doubts that a lasting resolution was imminent.
Brent rose 1.3 percent $106.13 a barrel, and US crude added 0.7 percent to $100.26 a barrel.