NEW YORK, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks lost ground after opening higher Monday, as investors held their breath before a raft of major events this week, including the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes for its policy meeting held last month and the December nonfarm payroll report.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 44.89 points, or 0.27 percent, to 16,425.10. The S&P 500 extended its losses to a third straight day since the start of this year, dipping 4.60 points, or 0.25 percent, to 1,826.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 18.22 points, or 0.44 percent, to 4,113.68.
The three major stock indices opened higher to start the first full trading week this year but pared morning gains after data showed the U.S. service sector expanded at a slower pace.
The Non-Manufacturing Index, which measures activity in the U.S. service sector, declined to 53 percent in December from 53.9 percent in November, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday.
New orders for U.S. manufactured goods rose in November to the highest level ever recorded, mainly fueled by increasing new orders for durable goods, the Commerce Department reported.
Investors may use any sign of weakness in incoming data as an opportunity to sell and lock in profits after the U.S. equity market posted its best year in more than a decade in 2013 and is overdue for a mild correction, according to some analysts.
The Fed will on Wednesday release the minutes of its December policy meeting, when the central bank announced the first tapering of its massive asset purchases by 10 billion U.S. dollars starting January. The minutes will give investors a better understanding of the Fed's decision-making.
Moreover, a non-farm payroll report for the final month of last year will be published by the Labor Department Friday. Analysts expect non-farm payroll employment to increase 200,000 in December, while jobless rate could remain unchanged at 7 percent.
Furthermore, the fourth-quarter earnings season will unofficially start this week, with results from aluminum giant Alcoa due out on Thursday.
FactSet, a financial information provider, estimated earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 as a whole for the fourth quarter to be 6.3 percent, while the estimated revenue growth rate would be 0. 3 percent.
Last week, the three major stock indices finished lower, with the S&P 500 starting the new year with a two-day losing streak for the first time since 2005.
On other markets, the U.S. dollar weakened against most major currencies Monday, dragged by disappointing U.S. service industry data. In late New York trading, the euro rose to 1.3635 dollars from 1.3597 dollars of the previous session. The greenback bought 104.28 yen, lower than 104.66 yen of the previous session.
Oil prices also fell. Light, sweet crude for February delivery lost 53 cents to settle at 93.43 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for February delivery decreased 16 cents to close at 106.73 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped as investors were waiting for minutes of the Fed's December policy meeting to get more clues about the central bank's future monetary policy plans.
The most active gold contract for February delivery dropped 0.6 dollar, or 0.05 percent, to settle at 1,238 dollars per ounce.