* Investors unsure of Fed's timing for tapering
* ADP employment report tops expectations
* Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P 500 down 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.02 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The Dow and the S&P 500 finishedlower for the fourth consecutive session on Wednesday afterinvestors found few reasons to make big moves, with uncertaintyremaining over when the Federal Reserve will start to slow itsstimulus.
Stocks fell for much of the session, but edged closer tobreak-even levels in the last hour of trading. Still, the losseswere broad, with eight of the 10 S&P 500 sector indexes endinglower for the day on concerns that the market's recent rally torecord levels was not justified.
About 60 percent of the shares traded on the New York StockExchange closed lower for the day, while 56 percent ofNasdaq-listed stocks closed down.
Many market participants expect the Fed to announce a cut inits $85 billion in monthly bond purchases in March, but recenteconomic data increased expectations that the move may comesooner. The Fed has said it would slow its stimulus program whencertain economic measures meet its targets, including a declinein the U.S. unemployment rate.
The ADP National Employment Report showed private-sectoremployers added 215,000 jobs in November, more than expected.This was the latest in a string of reports suggesting that theeconomy's outlook was brightening.
"Stronger economics means earlier tapering, which is anegative for the market. On top of that, we've surged to newhighs with a lot of optimism, and that normally calls for apullback, if only briefly," said Bruce McCain, chief investmentstrategist at Key Private Bank in Cleveland, Ohio.
"If the decline is mostly about sentiment, we should workthrough it quickly and be back to seeing better action," headded. "But the pullback could be more pronounced, the morepeople focus on the Fed."
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 24.85points, or 0.16 percent, to end at 15,889.77. The Standard &Poor's 500 Index declined 2.34 points, or 0.13 percent,to finish at 1,792.81. But the Nasdaq Composite Index inched up just 0.80 of a point, or 0.02 percent, to close at4,038.00.
In the Fed's Beige Book, a collection of anecdotes from thecentral bank's business contacts across the nation, the Fed saidemployers had stepped up hiring in some parts of the country inOctober and early November, and the economy had expanded at a"modest to moderate pace."
Other signs of strength in the economy were figures showingthat the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October and new homesales recorded their biggest increase in nearly 33-1/2 years inOctober. The home sales report suggested that the housingmarket's recovery remains intact despite higher mortgage rates. Shares of KB Home (NYSE: KBH - news) rose 1.1 percent to$17.26.
But the economic picture was muddied after the Institute forSupply Management said its services index fell to 53.9 lastmonth from 55.4 in October. A forecast called for a Novemberreading of 55.0. A figure above 50 signifies expansion.
U.S. crude oil futures prices advanced 1.2 percent,up for a fourth straight day as government data showed anunexpected drop in U.S. stockpiles. Crude is up 5.3 percent overthe past four sessions.
Among decliners, shares of clothing retailer Express Inc tumbled 23 percent to $19 after the company forecastquarterly earnings below analysts' estimates because ofweaker-than-expected Thanksgiving sales.
About 6.54 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms,according to BATS exchange data.
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