For those of you keeping score at home: It's stocks 0, worry warts 4.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average racked up its fourth straight decline, falling about 30 points, or 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 shed 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.1 percent.
Worries about growth in China have started to rattle investors here, who are concerned that the U.S. can't go this recovery alone.
"We can't have the kind of recovery we've planned without China," said Tracey Ryniec, an analyst at Zacks.com.
As a result, stocks have fallen for four straight days, including a 2-percent declineTuesday, and struggled to hold onto even the smallest gains in today's session.
A couple of misses in today's economic reports exacerbated the market jitters: ADP said private employers cut 298,000 jobsin August, more than the 250,000 expected, and factory orders rose 1.3 percentin July, a much slower pace than the 2.2 percent expected.
The key data point this week will be the August jobs report, due out on Friday. Economists expect to see that 233,000 jobs were lost, slightly fewer than the 247,000 lost in July, and that the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.5 percent.
"[W]e reckon Friday's official number will be about 250K. That's still terrible, but it does mean that the trend towards smaller net job losses continues," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients. "The move to payroll stability ... is some way off yet, though."
On an encouraging note, Federal Reserve policy makers are confident the recession is endingand are therefore more comfortable slowing down their economic-recovery plan, according to minutes from their last meeting.
And the CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, eased about 1 percent, ending below 29, after surging 12 percent in the previous session.