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US stocks end mildly lower; S&P 500 down for third day

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U.S. stocks closed slightly lower on Monday, with the S&P 500 extending 2014 losses into a third session, as mixed economic data put investors in a cautious mode ahead of the jobs report at the end of the week.

"The precursor to the main event this week is the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) minutes on Wednesday, then all eyes on the payrolls number," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group, referring to the nonfarm payrolls figure for December, set for release on Friday.

The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index came in at 53.0 in December, versus estimates that the index would climb to 54.6 from 53.9 the month before.

While under forecasts, the index still came in "well above the 50-line of demarcation," said Stone of the level that separates expansion from contraction. The services report was also offset by "better-than-expected factory orders, which is the real deal, although more dated," said Stone, referring to separate data from the Commerce Department, which reported new orders for U.S. factory goods rebounded in November, increasing 1.8 percent.

Economic reports released ahead of the open showed service industry growth slowed in China in December but gained momentum across most of Europe.

"The Chinese number didn't help us; Europe is healing but still on the edge," said Stone of the economic data from overseas.

Shares of JetBlue Airways fell more than 4 percent after the airline said it would temporarily halt service in Boston and at the three New York regional airports as it contends with weather-related disruptions. Whole Foods Market declined after Longbow Research said the company's profit margin could decline as it hikes discounts to compete with rivals.

Men's Wearhouse hiked its offer for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, days after the smaller rival increased its buyout defenses. Boston Scientific climbed after Morgan Stanley recommended the drug manufacturer's shares. Shares of Walgreen rose after the drugstore chain reported increased sales in December. Twitter fell after Morgan Stanley reduced its rating on the social-networking company to underweight from hold.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 44.89 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,425.10, with Microsoft the leading laggard among the blue-chip index's 30 components.

The S&P 500 declined 4.6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,826.77, with materials and consumer discretionary the hardest hit and telecommunications and financials the best performing sectors.

The Nasdaq also fell for a third session, losing 18.23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,113.68.

For every seven stocks rising, eight fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 669 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.3 billion.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 4 basis points to 2.963 percent and the U.S. dollar edged lower against other global currencies.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the cost of crude fell, with oil futures for February delivery lost 53 cents to $93.43 a barrel. Gold futures for February delivery fell 60 cents, or 0.1 percent, to settle at $1,238 an ounce.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of investor uncertainty, declined 2.2 percent to 13.46.

Janet Yellen is expected to be confirmed by the Senate Monday as head of the Federal Reserve, which started cutting its bond purchases this month and will release minutes from its December policy meeting on Wednesday.

In a speech delivered in Philadelphia, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley said the central bank should have more information on how its asset buys stimulate the economy.

The nonfarm payrolls report for December will be released on Friday.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson

Coming Up This Week:

Monday: Companies expected to report quarterly results include A. Schulman and Sonic.

Tuesday: International trade numbers for November at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. 3-year note Treasury auction at 1 p.m. Eastern. Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren speaks about the economic outlook at 8:30 a.m. San Francisco Fed President John Williams talks about the economy and monetary policy at 2:10 p.m. Eastern. Companies expected to report quarterly results include Micron, Apollo Group and The Container Store.

Wednesday: ADP report for December at 8:15 a.m. Eastern. 10-year Treasury note auction at 1 p.m. Eastern. Release of FOMC minutes at 2 p.m. Eastern. Consumer credit for November at 3 p.m. Eastern. Companies expected to report quarterly results include Constellation Brands, Ruby Tuesday, Family Dollar and Monsanto.

Thursday: Weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. December chain-store sales. Kansas City Fed President Esther George talks about the economy at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota talks about the economy at 8 p.m. Eastern. Companies expected to report quarterly results include Alcoa, PriceSmart, Supervalue and Texas Industries.

Friday: Nonfarm payrolls at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Wholesale inventories for November at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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