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Stocks recover slightly in midday trading

Gregory Rowe, a trader with Livermore Trading Group

Gregory Rowe, a trader with Livermore Trading Group Inc., works on the floor of the NYSE Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Credit: Bloomberg News / Jin Lee

The stock market fluctuated, but seemed headed for another day of losses Wednesday afternoon, as a survey on hiring did little to ease uncertainty over the health of the economy.

The decline was broad, snaring consumer products, transportation and technology companies, and effectively wiped out modest gains from a day earlier.

In early afternoon on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 12 points at 15,433.3. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 4.3 points to 1,750.7. The Nasdaq was down 18.4 points at 4,013.1. All had larger losses in early trading.

JOB GROWTH. A private survey on Wednesday showed that U.S. businesses added jobs at a steady but modest pace in January, a sign that hiring has rebounded after a disappointing figure in December. Payroll processor ADP said companies added 175,000 jobs last month. That's down from 227,000 in December, which was revised lower. But it was much better than the government's official figure of just 74,000 new jobs in December. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT. Time Warner said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter net income dropped 12 percent, as investments in programing and other costs offset revenue growth. Still, the media and entertainment company's adjusted profit beat Wall Street predictions. Its shares were down $1.25, or 2 percent to $61.16. The stock is down 12 percent this year.

BIG DECLINERS. Freight transportation company C.H. Robinson Worldwide led the S&P 500's decliners, falling 5.47, or 9.3 percent to $53.17. Health care information services provider Cerner also fell sharply, shedding $4.11, or 4.2 percent, to $92.90.

MONEY HANDLERS. Several financial services companies were posting gains early Wednesday. Genworth Financial was up 45 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $14.96 after reporting first-quarter earnings. Ameriprise Financial rose $2.01, or 1.9 percent, to $105.40. The Hartford Financial Services Group gained 16 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $32.97.

TREASURIES. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 2.64 percent from 2.63 percent on Tuesday. The yield, which affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, has dropped from 3 percent at the start of the year as investors have bought bonds amid concern that U.S. growth is slowing.

A private survey on Wednesday showed that U.S. businesses added jobs at a steady but modest pace in January, a sign that hiring has rebounded after a disappointing December. Investors are also looking toward Friday's U.S. government report on job growth for January.

Time Warner's quarterly net income dropped 12 percent as investments in programing and other costs offset revenue growth. Its stock fell 2 percent in early trading.

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