US stocks dropped early Wednesday in volatile trade as lackluster data on private-sector hiring offset the latest big pharmaceutical merger.
About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 17,842.05, down 86.15 points (0.48 percent).
The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 7.57 (0.36 percent) to 2,081.89, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 22.10 (0.45 percent) at 4,917.23.
US stocks opened higher, but quickly veered into negative territory.
Payrolls firm ADP estimated the US added just 169,000 private-sector jobs in April, the second month in a row under 200,000, as the petroleum sector downturn continued to pinch the labor market.
"The economic data is not terrific," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
Hogan said markets are also fixated on surging oil prices and gains in the euro, which could crimp the European recovery.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals announced it would buy Synageva BioPharma for $8.4 billion, creating a bigger player in treatments for rare diseases. Synageva surged 113.8 percent, while Alexion fell 8.2 percent.
Apparel retailer The Children's Place jumped 5.6 percent after boosting its first-quarter profit forecast from 60-65 cents per share to 81-83 cents per share.
Herbalife, a marketer of nutrition supplements, bolted 15.7 percent higher after first-quarter net income edged up 4.8 percent to $78.2 million despite a $36.3 million charge related to the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar.
Videogame developer Electronic Arts gained 4.0 percent as net income for the quarter ending March 31 rose 7.6 percent to $395 million.
Payment services company MoneyGram International surged 22.5 percent on reports it is in talks to be acquired by Western Union. Western Union rose 4.8 percent.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.20 percent from 2.18 percent Tuesday, while the 30-year advanced to 2.93 percent from 2.91 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.