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VOL. 38 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 28, 2014

Stocks ease below record highs ahead of jobs news

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged lower Thursday, falling back from all-time highs, as traders refrained from making any big bets ahead of Friday's monthly job report. Declines were led by health care stocks.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,890 as of 1:19 p.m. Eastern time. The index closed at an all-time high of 1,890 a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,558. The Nasdaq composite fell 40 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,237.

JOBS FRIDAY: Economists expect that the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in March, according to FactSet. That would be the biggest gain in hiring since November and would help build optimism about the outlook for growth. The Labor Department's report is published on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

RECORD BREAKER: The stock market rallied to a record Wednesday after some encouraging news on the economy this week. Reports on manufacturing and hiring have suggested that the economy is starting to strengthen after a lull caused by unusually harsh weather this winter. There was more good news on Thursday. The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index rose to 53.1 in March, up from 51.6 in February, indicating that growth in the service sector is picking up.

"The market does seem to be getting pretty excited about each new data set," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Common Financial Network, an investment adviser. "So, with the economy continuing to strengthen, you very well could see the market continuing to rise."

BOOK ENDS: Barnes & Noble fell $3.35, or 15 percent, to $18.76 after Liberty Media said it was cutting its stake in the company. Liberty Media, the investment company controlled by billionaire John Malone, gave Barnes & Noble a lifeline in 2011 when it bought a 17 percent stake in the company.

SPLIT ENDS: Google's stock split took effect Thursday. Google's new Class C non-voting shares rose $3.31, or 0.6 percent, to $570.63, while its Class A shares rose $3.64, or 0.6 percent, to $571.74. The Class A shares, which have been traded since the company went public nearly a decade ago, now trade under the ticker symbol "GOOGL." The Class C shares inherited the "GOOG" ticker symbol.

BONDS AND COMMODITIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.78 percent from 2.80 percent on Wednesday. The price of oil rose 45 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $100.10 a barrel. Gold fell $5.30, or 0.4 percent, to $1,285.50 an ounce.