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Stocks Climb Off Worst Levels But Remain Mostly Negative - U.S. Commentary

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Stocks have climbed off their worst levels of the day but remain mostly negative in mid-day trading on Wednesday. The major averages are partly offsetting the upward move seen over the past few sessions.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq briefly turned positive but has rejoined the Dow and the S&P 500 in the red since then. The Dow is down 209.85 points or 0.8 percent at 24,674.27, the Nasdaq is down 19.49 points or 0.3 percent at 7,352.52 and the S&P 500 is down 14.82 points or 0.5 percent at 2,713.30.

The weakness on Wall Street comes as traders are reacting to news of the resignation of White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn.

The resignation by Cohn, a free trade advocate, comes after President Donald Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

In a statement, Trump said Cohn did a "superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again."

Trump said in a post on Twitter that he would make a decision on a new chief economic advisor "soon," adding, "Many people wanting the job - will choose wisely!"

In U.S. economic news, payroll processor ADP released a report private sector employment increased by more than expected in the month of February.

ADP said employment in the private sector jumped by 235,000 jobs in February after surging up by a revised 244,000 jobs in January.

Economists had expected an increase of about 195,000 jobs compared to the addition of 234,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed the trade deficit widened by more than expected in the month of January.

The report said the trade deficit widened to $56.6 billion in January from $53.9 billion in December. The deficit had been expected to widen to $55.1 billion.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in the twelve Fed districts that may shed light on the outlook for interest rates.

Sector News

Gold stocks are turning in some of the market's worst performances after moving sharply higher in the previous session. After jumping by 2 percent on Tuesday, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index is down by 2 percent.

The pullback by gold stocks comes amid a notable decrease by the price of the precious metal, with gold for April delivery slumping $10.60 to $1,324.60 an ounce.

Significant weakness is also visible among energy stocks, which are moving lower along with the price of crude oil. Crude oil for April delivery is falling $0.54 to $62.06 a barrel.

Reflecting the weakness in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is down by 1.7 percent and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index is down by 1.6 percent.

Retail stocks are also seeing considerable weakness in mid-day trading, while most of the other major sectors are showing only modest moves.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped by 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped by 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are turning in another lackluster performance after ending the previous session roughly flat. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 2.874 percent.

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