NEW YORK — Investors on Wednesday ignored flashes of positive news about the economy and instead homed in on troubling reports about jobs in the U.S. and Europe.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 87 points after a company that tracks payrolls said the U.S. added far fewer jobs in April than in March.
The Dow ended the day down 10.75 points, at 13,268.57.
It was a turn from the day before, when investors chose to focus on a couple of positive reports on U.S. manufacturing and sent the Dow up 66 points to its highest close in more than four years.
While the market’s day-to-day fluctuations may be difficult to predict, some investors say they’re certain stocks will generally climb for the rest of the year. As justification, they cite strong first-quarter earnings.
Of the 330 companies on the S&P 500 that have reported first-quarter earnings, 77 percent have beaten the estimates of stock analysts, said John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet, a provider of financial data.
“The market has room to run,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, market strategist with ING Investment Management in New York. “It doesn’t always go up in a straight line.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 3.51 points to 1,402.31. The Nasdaq composite index was the outlier. It fell throughout the morning, then finished up 9.41 points at 3,059.85.
The report on private sector hiring weighed on investors, who see jobs as the key ingredient to an economic recovery.
The jobs report from Europe underscored the gravity of the continuing debt crisis there. The 17 countries that use the euro reported that unemployment rose to 10.9 percent in March, the highest since the euro launched in 1999.
Markets fell across most of Europe, including Germany and Greece.
There also was good news out of Europe, even if it didn’t seem to sway investors. Standard & Poor’s lifted Greece’s credit rating out of default, noting how the country had recently secured a massive writedown on its debt to private investors.
Germany also reported that the number of people seeking work in April slipped below 3 million, a psychologically important barrier that it hasn’t broken in that month for two decades.
Todd Salamone, director of research for Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati, downplayed concerns about Europe. Investors have had a long time to digest any bad news and shouldn’t be too shaken by daily developments, even if the headlines seem panicky, he said.
“U.S. stocks have become more resilient, especially to the European headlines,” Salamone said. “Any negative news out of Europe is not a major surprise like it was early last year.”
In other news:
ASCENA RETAIL: It shot up more than 10 percent after announcing it plans to buy rival Charming Shoppes. Ascena runs dressbarn, maurices and Justice, which are clothing chains for women and girls. The purchase will add Lane Bryant, Catherines and Fashion Bug to its portfolio.
ENERGIZER HOLDINGS: The battery maker popped more than 9 percent after reporting higher revenue and earnings. The company said that sales of Schick razors helped results.
CVS CAREMARK: It gained millions of new prescriptions in the first quarter because of a contract impasse between two rivals, and now the drugstore chain wants to keep the growth going by ensuring that those customers stick around and use the rest of its store.
First-quarter earnings rose 9 percent.
MASTERCARD: Shoppers in Latin America, the Asia Pacific and the Middle East powered a 25 percent increase in its profit for the first three months of the year.
VISA: Visa said Wednesday that its profit for the first three months of the year was up 30 percent from the year before, primarily because credit card use rose in the United States and overseas.
The company said Americans rang up 12 percent more on their charge cards for the quarter. Debit card use grew by only 4 percent, however, the slowest growth in a year.
UBS: Switzerland’s biggest bank reported a 54 percent drop in first-quarter net profit for 2012, mostly because of an accounting loss on its own debts as well as difficult market conditions.
COMCAST: The country’s largest cable company reported a 30 percent profit increase in the first quarter, beating expectations on the strength of Super Bowl advertising and its popular broadband service.
TIME WARNER: First-quarter earnings fell 11 percent, but adjusted income beat Wall Street’s expectations on the strengths of the company’s television and movie studio businesses.
AMAZON: Target Corp. is phasing out Amazon.com Inc.’s e-reader Kindle at its more than 1,700 stores and its website.
YOUTUBE: It is adding to its original programming by launching channels specializing in female dramas and U.S. Olympic athletes.
TREASURY BORROWING: The U.S. Treasury is delaying a decision on whether to start borrowing in an unconventional way to help cover the federal budget deficits: By offering Treasurys with variable interest rates, like those on some home mortgages.
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