- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are paring losses after readings on home sales and manufacturing came in better than expected.

The National Association of Realtors says pending home sales rebounded in February from a record low. The Institute for Supply Management, meanwhile, says its index of manufacturing activity during March contracted by a bit less than anticipated.

The Dow Jones industrials are down 48, or 0.6 percent, at 7,561. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down 6, or 0.7 percent, at 792. The Nasdaq composite index is down 19, or 1.3 percent, at 1,509.

The major indexes had been lower in earlier trading as world finance ministers meet in London to discuss the global economy. Investors are also cautious ahead of the Labor Department’s Friday report on nationwide job cuts in March.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) _ After the Dow Jones industrials’ worst first quarter in 70 years, Wall Street is starting the second three months of the year with a sharp drop.

The major stock indexes fell more than 1 percent in early trading Wednesday as finance ministers from around the world meet in London to discuss the sagging global economy.

Speculation has risen in recent days that the various countries in the Group of 20 are disagreeing about how to handle the global financial crisis. But as thousands of protesters gathered in London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the G20 was close to agreeing on global reforms of the financial system.

Investors were also cautious as they awaited gauges of the U.S. economy: a manufacturing activity index, pending sales of existing homes, construction spending data, and auto sales figures. The data are expected to show modest improvements, but investors have been hit recently with some downbeat economic readings.

Early Wednesday, the ADP National Employment Report said private sector employment dropped by 742,000 in March. The figure was higher than anticipated, and a rattling sign ahead of the Labor Department’s Friday report on nationwide job cuts last month.

Investors are nervous that a big “blowout number” in job cuts might still lie ahead, said Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at Cowen & Co. However, he added, a pullback after March’s massive stock rally could be a healthy move for the market as it tries to discern where the economy is headed.

“I don’t want to go straight up,” Leone said.

In early trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 83.48, or 1.1 percent, to 7,525.44. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures fell 10.95, or 1.4 percent, to 786.92. Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 23.52, or 1.5 percent, to 1,505.07.

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