By Will Horner
U.S. stocks pared losses Wednesday following Tuesday's record highs as rising coronavirus cases and a slowdown in private sector job creation weighed on investor sentiment.
The S&P 500 was essentially flat in morning trading, a day after the benchmark set its 27th closing record of the year. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.2% after also setting a record. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated about 7 points, less than 0.1%.
The market has been propelled higher in recent weeks by optimism that Covid-19 vaccines will help accelerate the economic rebound. That has led to a jump in stocks that are sensitive to economic growth, including energy and banks.
"We've obviously had a great run up since just before the election results and yesterday we saw that record high, so that is as much a reason as any for some consolidation," said Derek Halpenny, head of research for global markets in the European region at MUFG Bank.
Stocks are likely to continue rallying in coming weeks, despite valuations that appear to be stretched, he added. "Why would you be a seller of stocks when you know that policy support, both fiscal and monetary, is there and probably will be there going forward?"
Shortly after the opening bell, Pfizer rose 3.9% after the U.K. government approved its Covid-19 vaccine for use, paving the way for the shot to be distributed within days. Shares of Pfizer's partner, BioNTech, rose 4.4%.
Meanwhile, Salesforce.com tumbled 9.9%. The cloud-computing company on Tuesday confirmed that it had agreed to buy Slack Technologies for $27.7 billion.
U.S. lawmakers this week reignited talks for coronavirus relief packages, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussing measures by phone for the first time since the election. But investors remain skeptical about the prospects for fresh stimulus spending in the weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
"Both sides would like to be seen to be doing something with an eye on the run off in Georgia on the fifth of January," Mr. Halpenny said. But Republicans are unlikely to support a large spending package, he added. "I can't see anything happening really until Biden enters the White House."
The Federal Reserve's beige book report, due at 2 p.m. ET, will offer the latest collection of business anecdotes across Fed districts, offering insights into how companies view the economy's prospects.
The ADP National Employment Report on Wednesday showed that job creation in the private sector slowed last month. About 307,000 new nonfarm jobs were created, marking a drop from October and less than economists had been forecasting.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Mr. Mnuchin are set to testify before a house committee. Lawmakers on Tuesday pressed Mr. Mnuchin over his decision not to renew a suite of emergency Federal Reserve lending programs. The Fed has said it would prefer the lending programs remain in place until the risks posed to the economy by the pandemic has subsided.
In bond markets, the yield on the 10-year Treasurys ticked up to 0.940%, from 0.933% on Tuesday.
Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 edged down 0.3%. Conflicting reports about the status of the talks between the European Union and the U.K. on a post-Brexit trade deal led to choppy trading in the region.
In Asia, the major stock indexes ended trading on a muted note. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed almost flat, while the Shanghai Composite Index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid roughly 0.1%.
-- Caitlin McCabe contributed to this article.
Write to Will Horner at William.Horner@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires