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US markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday

The US markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday, as weakness in the energy sector spurred some minor selling that offset a recovery in the technology sector. The S&P 500 ended essentially unchanged on the day, although it closed in slightly negative territory. That made for its fourth straight lower close, its longest losing streak since March. Also in focus was the prospect of a US government shutdown. Federal government operations are funded through Friday, and would partially shut down if there's no deal by politicians to extend funding. President Donald Trump again raised the possibility of a US government shutdown - blaming Democrats for that possible outcome - one day before he is due to host Republican and Democratic congressional leaders for talks on spending bills. Separately, US Senate Republicans agreed to talks with the House of Representatives on sweeping tax legislation on Wednesday, amid early signs that lawmakers could bridge their differences and agree on a final bill ahead of a self-imposed December 22 deadline.

On the economy front, private-sector employment slowed down in November, as employers added 190,000 jobs. According to Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), small private-sector businesses added 50,000 jobs in November, midsize businesses added 99,000, and large businesses added 41,000. Most of those gains were in the service sector - 155,000 jobs added there, compared with 36,000 for goods producers. Manufacturing added a solid 40,000 jobs. Separately, the increase in productivity of American firms and workers was unchanged at 3% in the third quarter under the government's first do-over of its original report. The increase in output - goods and services produced - was revised to 4.1% from 3.8%. And the increase in hours worked was raised to 1.1% from 0.8%. Hourly compensation rose 2.7% instead of 3.5%. Unit-labor costs were revised down to show a 0.2% decline from an initial 0.5% increase. The increase in third-quarter productivity was the strongest in three years, but part of the gain likely stemmed from how a trio of major hurricanes in the fall distorted the government's calculations. Productivity has been unusually weak during the current expansion that began in mid-2009. More surprisingly, was the decline in labor costs. Unit-labor costs - how much it costs to make each product - have fallen 0.7% over the past year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 39.73 points or 0.16 percent to 24,140.91, the S&P 500 edged lower by 0.3 points or 0.01 percent to 2,629.27, while the Nasdaq added 14.162 points or 0.21 percent to 6,776.38. 

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