Stocks Tread Water As Fed Blames Weather for Poor Economic Data

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Stocks barely moved on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve offered confirmation that the harsh winter affected the economy and a key report showed the private sector added fewer-than-projected jobs in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unofficially 35 points lower and the S&P 500 was marginally down. On Tuesday, both the Dow and the S&P had their best session of the year as worries over the crisis in Ukraine eased.

The Nasdaq edged up 6 points on Wednesday.

According to the Fed's Beige Book survey, a series of winter storms that have plagued the nation since December have acted like a drag on the economy in many regions of the U.S.

Ahead of the Fed's survey, a measure of the service sector declined and another report said the private sector added fewer-than-projected jobs in February, with both seen as being affected by the weather. ADP Research Institute reported the private sector added 139,000 jobs in February, less than the 160,000 estimated.

Oil futures for April delivery declined $1.46, or 1.4 percent, to $101.87 a barrel. Gold added $2.40, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $1,340.30 an ounce.

The dollar held steady against other global currencies and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 1 basis point to 2.692 percent