Jan. 6 - Summary: Stocks ease after services sector growth slows for second month; Weather forces JetBlue to cancel flights until Tuesday; Twitter rating cut by Morgan Stanley; Congress returns to fight over emergency jobless aid. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Stocks are down three for three in the new year as investors stand frozen after blockbuster gains in 2013. The move to the downside lacked conviction with the major indices straying little from opening levels. Mixed economic signals were partly to blame. The vast services sector continued to expand in December, but the rate of growth slowed for the second consecutive month. Despite that, the employment component was better. In a separate report, factory orders rose in November. Ahead of what is expected be another nasty winter storm - JetBlue is pulling its planes out of harm's way in the Northeast, suspending flights until Tuesday afternoon. It's not alone. More than 3,000 flights were canceled by the industry on Monday because of frigid temperatures. Shares of JetBlue responded negatively to its flight cancellations. Twitter was a loser after Morgan Stanley joined the bandwagon of negative downgrades, saying "success is far from guaranteed at this early stage." Congress is back and so is the fight over unemployment benefits. No word by the closing bell on whether lawmakers will find a way to renew emergency relief for 1.3 million Americans who saw benefits run out at the end of the year. Most Republicans oppose any renewal due to a $6 billion price tag. There was little movement in European markets with weaker-than-expected data in the U.S. and China denting appetite for equities.