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Stocks Struggle After S&P Breaches 1,111

Stocks were mixed Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P retreating, after the S&P broke through a key level.

Stocks had opened higher after a pair of private employment reports showed an improvement in the jobs picture but not as much as expected.

The S&P broke through the key 1,111 level, but couldn't get much higher, suggesting stocks may have hit that wall — and then retreated.

Alcoa, Verizon and Kraft were the biggest gainers on the Dow. Financials were once again the weakest link: Bank of America , JPMorgan and American Express were at the bottom of the Dow pack.

This came after the Dow gained 1.2 percentTuesday as Dubai fears subsided and the dollar retreated.

The latest on that front is that Dubai World has agreed to meet with its creditorsnext week.

In today's trading, the dollar advanced, rising against both the euro and yen. Oil slipped below $78 a barrel and gold soared past the prior session's record of $1,200 an ounce.

Payroll-services company ADP reported that private employers shed 169,000 jobs from their payrolls in November, fewer than the 195,000 jobs lost in October but more than the 155,000 expected. ADP forecasts typically run sharply lower than the actual numbers released by the Labor Department. The government report is due out on Friday. Economists expect to see that 140,000 jobs were shed from nonfarm payrolls last month.

Meanwhile outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that employers announced just over 50,000 layoffs in November, the lowest number in nearly two years.

On the M&A front, the GE -Comcast deal is expected to be officially announced in the next 24 hours. GE is the parent of CNBC.

Walmart shook the Christmas tree once again, announcing another round of price cuts— this time on videogames.

Retailers were mostly higher as investors digested the latest numbers: ShopperTrak reported sales rose 1.6 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend, up from 0.9 percent last year.

Amazon shares jumped over 2 percent, giving the Nasdaq a boost, after comScore said online spending rose 5 percent on "Cyber Monday" to $887 million from the same day last year.

EBay, shares were slightly higher after the online auctioner said Cyber Monday transactions exceeded those of Black Friday by 35 percent.

Google shares were flat after the search giant offered some clarity on its spat with News Corp.: Google will allow readers five free news articles per day but prompt them to subscribe after that.

Shares of rival Yahoo rose more than 1 percent after the Internet portal expanded its integration with Facebook, allowing users of its email, photo-sharing and other activities to link their updates directly into Facebook.

Homebuilders were mixed but home-improvement stores Home Depot and Lowe's rose after a report showed mortgage applications roselast weekas borrowing rates stayed below 5 percent.

Regional banks were mostly higher after Credit Suisse upgraded the group to "overweight" on a belief that most of the major companies won't need to raise additional capital.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

In particular, Credit Suise raised SunTrust to "outperform" from "neutral" and BB&T to "neutral" from "underperform."

A day earlier, analyst Dick Bove said he's concerned that the government wants to increase capital requirements for banks. Of the top 30, Bove said, only 4 don't need to raise capital: Citigroup, State Street, Northern Trust and First Horizon.

At 2 pm, investors will be focused on the Federal Reserve's beige book, the region-by-region assessment of the nation's economy.

Still to Come:

WEDNESDAY: Fed's beige book; Earnings from Aeropostale
THURSDAY: Chain-store sales; weekly jobless claims; ECB, UK rate meetings; Bernanke renomination hearing; ISM services index; Earnings from Toll Brothers, Marvell Tech and Novell
FRIDAY: November jobs report; Fed's Plosser, Bullard speak; factory orders; Earnings from Big Lots

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.