April 3 - Summary of business headlines: Weaker than expected private job creation and softer services growth spark economic jitters; U.S. Defense Secretary calls North Korea ''real and clear danger''; Refinery stocks see slick downfall; Oil down nearly $3. Conway G. Gittens reports.
A number of factors dragged Wall Street lower Wednesday, one day after setting record closing highs. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were both down at least one percent, with the Dow falling by triple-digits. Private payrolls grew less than expected in March, according to payroll company ADP. Meanwhile, the U.S. services sector grew at the slowest pace in seven months. Both reports tempering expectations ahead of Friday's important read on jobs and unemployment. Investors were also spooked by geo-politics. The Pentagon says it's sending an advanced ballistic missile defense system to Guam after weeks of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: SOUNDBITE: U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They have nuclear capacity now. They have missile delivery capacity now, so as they have ratcheted up their dangerous rhetoric and some of the actions they have taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and the threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan, and also the threats that the North Korea has leveled directly at the United States." On the corporate front, the refining industry is facing a spike in costs for clean energy credits, while at the same time lacking enough spare capacity to boost output. The result - an intense sell-off: PBF Energy down 8 percent, Phillips 66 down 6-1/2 percent, Tesoro down 5 percent, and Valero down over 4 percent. By the way, crude oil futures tumbled almost $3 to less than $95 a barrel. Government data showing a surge in crude inventories to the highest in 23 years. In Europe, investors disconnected Vodafone after Verizon said it would not team up with AT&T to buy out the UK telecom. As for the markets, France and London settled with losses of 1 or more percent, a smaller decline in Germany.