A disappointing manufacturing report and an OPEC oil production cutback sent stocks falling Wednesday as investors wait for a sign of better things to come in Friday's employment report.
While the Commerce Department reported a rise in factory orders for February, it was less than Wall Street expected. Rising oil prices threatened to harm a number of industries, especially airlines and other transportation companies.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24.00, or 0.2 percent, to 10,357.70.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 0.79, or 0.1 percent, at 1,126.21.
The Nasdaq composite index lost 6.41, or 0.3 percent, to 1,994.22.
So far this week:
The Dow is up 144.73, or 1.4 percent; the S&P 500 has added 18.15, or 1.6 percent, and the Nasdaq has gained 34.20, or 1.7 percent.
Where the indexes stand compared with Oct. 9, 2002, when the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq hit five- and six-year lows, the depths of the bear market:
The Dow is 3,071.43, or 42.2 percent, above its five-year low of 7,286.27.
The S&P is 349.45, or 45.0 percent, above its six-year low of 776.76.
The Nasdaq is 880.11, or 79.0 percent, above its six-year low of 1,114.11.
Where the indexes stand compared with their all-time highs, reached in early 2000:
The Dow is 1,365.28, or 11.7 percent, below its peak of 11,722.98 on Jan. 14, 2000.
The S&P is 401.25, or 26.3 percent, below its peak of 1,527.46 on March 24, 2000.
The Nasdaq is 3,054.40, or 60.5 percent, below its peak of 5,048.62 on March 10, 2000.
For the first quarter of 2004 and the year to date:
The Dow is down 96.22, or 0.9 percent.
The S&P is up 14.29, or 1.3 percent.
The Nasdaq is down 9.15, or 0.5 percent.