US STOCKS-S&P 500 closes flat, near record; Ukraine in focus
* ADP private-sector employment data short of expectations
* Financial stocks lead the S&P 500's gainers
* Dow off 0.2 pct; S&P 500 flat; Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 5 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 finished almost flat on Wednesday, a day after closing at an all-time high, as investors shrugged off soft data on jobs and the services sector while keeping an eye on developments in Ukraine.
The market showed little reaction to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which said severe weather across much of the United States took a toll on shopping and consumer spending in recent weeks. That led to slower economic growth or output in some areas of the country, according to the Fed's report of anecdotal information on the U.S. economy.
Data from payrolls processor ADP showed that U.S. private-sector employers added fewer workers than expected in February. A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed the services sector continued to grow last month, albeit at a slower pace. A harsh winter has allowed traders to dismiss what appears to be a soft patch of data, making the market susceptible to a large pullback if the trend of weakness in data continues.
Market participants kept a close eye on developments out of Ukraine, following the most serious confrontation between Russia and the West over influence in Kiev and control of Crimea. Investors' global flight to safety on Monday was reversed sharply on Tuesday. Markets were calmer on Wednesday, but volatility was expected, given the fluid situation in Ukraine.
While the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is a significant risk to the global economy, "we don't expect current tensions to morph into a full-blown international crisis," said Joseph P. Quinlan, chief market strategist at U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management in New York. Continuación...