Disappointing February job numbers froze the major indices’ performance but didn’t stop retail stocks from advancing.
The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.3 percent to 944.05 on top of Tuesday’s 1 percent advance.
The Down Jones Industrial Average declined 0.2 percent to 16,360.18 while the S&P 500, coming off the all-time high reached Tuesday, ticked down less than 0.1 percent to 1,873.81.
Investors were disappointed by ADP’s report on February hiring, which pointed to the creation of 139,000 private-sector jobs last month, below the 158,000 expected by economists. As has been the case with a number of economic metrics, last month’s inclement weather in many parts of the country was cited as inhibiting hiring.
Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. were among the day’s strongest performers, with shares advancing 4 and 2.2 percent to $71.64 and $372.05, respectively.
Shares of Joe’s Jeans Inc. picked up 4 cents, enough for a 2.9 percent gain to $1.41, while Coldwater Creek Inc. shares grew 2.2 percent to 79 cents.
Equities in retreat included American Apparel Inc., down 2.8 percent to 85 cents, and Sears Holdings Corp., off 3.4 percent to $44.28.
Shares of Revlon Inc. were down 1.5 percent to $24.54 after the beauty firm reported a quarterly loss of $33.1 million stemming, in part, from its decision to exit China.
With tensions about Ukraine still simmering but stabilizing, most European markets dipped into negative territory at the close of trading, although Milan’s FTSE MIB was up 1.4 percent to 20,756.95.
Investors were holding their fire in anticipation of a European Central Bank meeting set for Thursday, sending the FTSE 100 in London down 0.7 percent to 6,775.42; the DAX in Frankfurt down 0.5 percent to 9,542.02 and the CAC 40 in Paris down 0.1 percent to 4,391.25.
Retail and luxury stocks put on a mixed show, with the day’s biggest gainers including Safilo Group, up 6.6 percent to 17.22 euros, after it reported double-digit sales growth for its continuing operations and improvement in adjusted net income in the fourth quarter. Also trending upward were Mulberry Group, 2.5 percent to 6.56 pounds; French Connection Group, 5.6 percent to 57 pence, and Carrefour SA, 4.4 percent to 27.83 euros.
Among the stocks that lost the most ground were Kering, 2.1 percent to 145.90 euros; Beiersdorf AG, 2.9 percent to 71.42 euros, and Luxottica Group, 1.4 percent to 39.02 euros.
Shares of Yoox were off 1.5 percent to 30.53 euros despite its report of a 23.9 percent increase in 2013 profits and an upbeat view for 2014.
The euro traded at $1.37 against the U.S. dollar, while the pound fetched $1.67 and the Swiss franc equaled $1.13.