While you were sleeping: Cool US jobs data

Wall Street was mixed, keeping the Standard & Poor's 500 Index near record highs, as investors opted for a sunny outlook on further evidence that the harsh US winter has cooled economic data.

The latest ADP national employment report showed that US companies added 139,000 workers in February, which was below expectations. Separately, the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index fell to 51.6 in February, down from 54 in January.

Even so, the latest data did little to change economists' minds that the economy will show its resilience once the unusually frosty winter dissipates.

"We continue to believe that the underlying momentum in the economy remains favourable, and we look for the pace of growth to rebound meaningfully in the coming months as the drag on activity from the unseasonably cold weather abates," Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York, told Reuters.

Investors seem to agree. In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.19 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was unchanged at 1,873.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.16 percent.

"Markets are continuing to give a free pass to any weak economic number because of the weather," Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, told Bloomberg News.

Shares of Exxon Mobil, down 3 percent, and those of Nike, down 1.4 percent, posted the biggest declines in the Dow, outweighing gains in shares of Goldman Sachs and Walt Disney, both up 1.5 percent.

Shares of Smith & Wesson soared, last up 17 percent, after the gun maker boosted its profit forecast.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index inched lower to close at 337.06. France's CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX shed 0.5 percent, while the UK's FTSE 100 dropped 0.7 percent.

The European Union has offered Ukraine billions in euros in aid to help revive its economy. The proposal will be discussed by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and is subject to an agreement between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund.

"The package combined could bring an overall support of at least 11 billion euros over the next couple of years, from the European Union budget and European Union based international financial institutions," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement. "It is a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Ukrainian government."

A team of officials from the International Monetary Fund is in Kiev assessing the nation's financial needs. The US earlier this week pledged US$1 billion of aid.

(BusinessDesk)

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