* 298,000 jobs added in Feb vs est 190,000
* Fed rate meeting on March 14-15
* Financials among top gainers
* Indexes up: Dow 0.05 pct, S&P 0.08 pct, Nasdaq 0.19 pct
(Updates to open)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
March 8 U.S. stocks were little changed on
Wednesday as investors focused on Friday's crucial nonfarm
payrolls report after a better-than-expected private hiring
report strengthened chances of a rate increase next week.
Financial stocks rose after the ADP National Employment
report showed that the U.S. private sector added 298,000 jobs
last month, blowing past economists' average estimate of
The S&P 500 financial index rose 1.14 percent, led
by gains in Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells
Goldman Sachs was the top stock on the Dow with a 0.9
Traders have priced in an all-but-certain quarter point rate
hike during the Fed's meeting on March 14-15, but investors are
keen to know whether the central bank would increase the pace of
Fed Chair Janet Yellen last week remarked that tightening
monetary policy would likely not be as slow this year as it was
in 2016 and 2015.
"Even if the Fed raises rates next week, it would be to 75
basis points which is historically very low and is still
considered very easy money," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive
officer at 50 Park Investments, in Florida.
"For the first time in years, you have hope that fiscal
policy will be kicked into gear in the U.S. and other parts of
the world ... that leads to healthier economic conditions and
that's why stocks refuse to fall in a meaningful way."
The dollar gathered strength on Wednesday, while gold -
which tends to lose value as rates rise - was lower.
At 9:39 a.m. ET (1439 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 11.29 points, or 0.05 percent, at 20,936.05, the
S&P 500 was up 1.95 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,370.34
and the Nasdaq Composite was up 11.35 points, or 0.19
percent, at 5,845.28.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with high
dividend-yielding utilities and real estate
Exxon and Chevron were the top drags on the
S&P as oil prices slipped more than 1 percent.
Among stocks, Caterpillar fell 1.2 percent to
$94.75, weighing the most on the Dow, after the New York Times
said it reviewed a report commissioned by the U.S. government
that accused the heavy equipment maker of carrying out tax and
Urban Outfitters was the biggest percentage loser
on the S&P, with an 8.4 percent decline following a sales miss
that led William Blair to downgrade the stock and other
brokerages to cut price targets.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,460
to 1,203. On the Nasdaq, 1,538 issues rose and 718 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed four new 52-week highs and six new
lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and 13 new lows.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by