Worry over a protracted government shutdown and concerns about weak hiring combined to push stocks slightly lower Wednesday, though blue chips posted steeper losses.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) lost 58 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,133, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dipped 1 point to 1,693 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) fell 3 points to 3,815.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are insisting that Democrats negotiate over the health care law as a condition for ending the funding deadlock. Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, insist that Republicans pass a straightforward temporary funding bill with no strings attached.
The market moved sharply lower in early trading, then pared its loss in the late morning following news that President Barack Obama had invited congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting on the shutdown.
Defense companies, which rely on government contracts for a large part of their revenue, led declines for industrial companies. Raytheon (RTN) fell 1.7 percent to $76.14, while Lockheed Martin (LMT) dropped 1.9 percent to $125.08.
Payroll processor Automatic Data Processing (ADP) said private employers added 166,000 jobs in September, below expectations for 180,000 jobs. Investors were looking to the ADP report for more guidance because Friday's broader employer report from the government will be delayed should the shutdown go beyond Wednesday.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%In commodities trading, benchmark crude for November delivery rose $2.06 to $104.10 a barrel, and gold rose $34.60, or 2.7 percent, to $1,320.60 an ounce.
In corporate news, the possibility of a second offer for BlackBerry reversed a slide in its stock price, after the struggling smartphone maker said it expected to record $400 million in pretax charges related to cuts announced last month. After falling to a low of $7.51 earlier in day, BlackBerry (BBRY) shares closed up 0.6 percent at $7.97.
Microsoft (MSFT) rose 1 percent to $33.90, following a report that some investors are eager for co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates to step down. While soon-to-depart chief executive Steve Ballmer has been under pressure for years to improve the company's performance and share price, this appears to be the first time that major shareholders are taking aim at Gates, who remains one of the most respected and influential figures in technology.
More Stocks in the News:
Shares of Pandora Media (P) rose 5.2 percent to $26.86 after the online music service reported increases in its number of listeners and the amount of time they listened. Oakland, Calif.-based Pandora said its September listener hours rose 18 percent to 1.36 billion. Meanwhile, its total number of active listeners jumped 25 percent to 72.7 million, compared with the same month in 2012.
Monsanto (MON) fell 1 percent to $104, after the company reported a wider loss than analysts were expecting because of weak sales of genetically engineered seeds.
Global Payments (GPN) jumped 11.5 percent to $56.52 after the company named a new CEO, sped up share repurchase plans and increased its profit outlook. The company provides electronic transaction processing services for retailers, financial institutions and government agencies.
Burlington Stores (BURL) shares rose more than 47 percent from their IPO price of $17 after Bain Capital returned the discount apparel retailer to the stock market, tapping into the appeal of cheaper clothing in a tough economy. Burlington's shares opened at $23.50 and closed at $25.10, valuing the company at $1.8 billion.
Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) rose 0.8 percent to $13.10 after the company's initial public offering raised about $754 million. The company owns the Empire State Building and other office properties in New York and Connecticut.
Alcoa (AA) slipped 1.8 percent to $8.02 after Deutsche Bank (DB) analyst Jorge Beristain cut his rating for the stock to "Sell" from "Hold," citing falling aluminum prices, which severely reduce Alcoa's profits during the next couple of years.
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department reports initial jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 28 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m., the Commerce Department reports Factory Orders for August; the Institute for Supply Management releases its survey of service-sector business activity for September; and Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates.
-Compiled from staff and wire reports.