New York - Wall Street started the last quarter of the year in the red on Thursday as Apple fell and investors parsed mixed US data.
Apple was down 2.2% at $107.83 on a report that chip suppliers were concerned the iPhone maker would cut chip orders for the fourth quarter. The stock was the biggest drag on the three major indexes.
The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) index of national factory activity fell to 50.2 in September, its lowest since May 2013.
New jobless claims rose modestly last week but remained near 15-year lows. Also, a gauge of the trend in claims fell.
Mixed signals from the data could complicate the Federal Reserve's plans to raise interest rates this year.
Wall Street rallied on Wednesday as investors bought beaten-down stocks, with biotechs rising for a second day after a recent bout of sustained selling.
"Markets opened modestly lower after Wednesday's big rally and then the ISM number came out just barely above 50," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
"Stocks are recovering a little bit, but it goes on the side of the ledger that indicates that the US and the global economies are certainly not growing at a robust rate."
All eyes will on Friday be on the crucial non-farm payroll numbers for clues on the timing of a rate hike.
Still sell bias
Investors will be keen to put the bruising quarter behind them and look ahead to the third-quarter earnings season, which begins next week.
Global markets were upbeat after data from China was not as bad as feared. While factory activity in China shrank again in September, some investors said the government could be more aggressive in its measures to boost the health of the world's second-largest economy.
"Wednesday's sell-up was in a vacuum. There is still a sell bias and the unrest around Syria and Russia are also weighing," said Andrew Frankel, co-president of brokerage firm Stuart Frankel & Co in New York.
General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler were up slightly after they reported a jump in September sales on Thursday.