US STOCKS-Wall Street drops on signs of weak economy, North Korea

Wed Apr 3, 2013 6:05pm EDT
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* ADP employment report comes in below expectations

* U.S. defense secretary says North Korea a danger

* Indexes down: Dow 0.8 pct, S&P 1.1 pct, Nasdaq 1.1 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 index posting its biggest daily decline in more than a month, after a weaker-than-expected survey of private employers raised concerns about the strength of the economy.

News the Pentagon was sending a missile defense system to Guam in the coming weeks and remarks by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that North Korea posed a "real and clear" danger added to investor caution.

The ADP National Employment report on private-sector jobs showed less-than-expected hiring in March, which was a worrying sign for investors before the Labor Department's March non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

Wednesday's market decline came a day after the benchmark S&P 500 and the Dow finished at record highs. Energy and financial sectors led the day's fall on the S&P 500, with the S&P 500 financial index down 1.7 percent.

"People continue to push the thesis that the bull market will remain intact as long as housing continues to be strong, and there will be a little doubt put on that thesis if the jobs number Friday is underwhelming," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.   Continued...