NEW YORK – Investors homed in on bad news about jobs in the U.S. and Europe Wednesday. They sent stocks down in midday trading, erasing the hope generated the day before about a brisk May for the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 47 points to 13,231 as of noon Eastern. The day before it closed at the highest point in four years, propelled by encouraging reports about U.S. manufacturing.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 fell seven points to 1,399. The Nasdaq composite index fell two points to 3,048.
An unemployment report underscored worries about Europe's debt crisis. 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.
There was also good news out of Europe, even if it wasn't enough to move the market.
Greece, which recently got relief from private lenders for a big chunk of its debt, had some good news: Standard & Poor's lifted the country's credit rating out of default, though it's still in junk status.
Germany, the perennial strong man in the troubled euro zone, reported that the number of people seeking jobs in April slipped below 3 million, a psychologically important barrier that it has broken in that month for two decades.
Some investors believe the U.S. market has already baked in concerns about Europe, despite the worries caused by news headlines.
"If there were a lot of investors that were bullish on Europe and all of a sudden a headline surfaced that they're headed to recession, that would create panic," said Todd Salamone, director of research for Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. "But now everybody thinks recession is imminent."
Nearly half the countries in the euro zone are officially in recession.
Concerns about U.S. jobs growth also roiled investors. Payroll processor ADP said that U.S. businesses added 119,000 jobs in April, far lower than the 201,000 added in March. The report covers hiring only in the public sector and can vary sharply from the government's broader employment report, which is due out Friday.
Stocks fell across the board. All 10 industries groups in the S&P 500 index were down, led by energy companies.
Chesapeake Energy plunged 13 percent. The company reported income and revenue that were far below what analysts were expecting. Reuters also reported that Chesapeake's CEO Aubrey McClendon ran a private hedge fund that traded contracts for oil and natural gas, commodities that Chesapeake produces.
Some companies fell even after reporting higher profits.
Comcast, the cable company that owns a majority stake in NBC Universal, also reported a higher profit thanks partly to Super Bowl advertising. But its stock also fell 2 percent in early trading.
Ascena Retail Group was an exception on an off day, shooting up nearly 10 percent after announcing it will buy Charming Shoppes, the company that owns women's clothing chain Lane Bryant.