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REFILE-US STOCKS-S&P 500 ends lower as investors weigh fresh employment data

(Refiles to fix typographical error in headline)


Campbell Soup rises on quarterly profit beat


Plug Power falls on Morgan Stanley downgrade


Private payrolls rise less than expected in November

By Noel Randewich and Amruta Khandekar

Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended down on Wednesday as signs of a cooling jobs market reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve could start cutting interest rates early next year, while weakness in megacaps and energy shares limited gains.

The ADP National Employment report showed private payrolls increased by 103,000 jobs in November, below economists' expectation of 130,000. That provided fresh evidence of labor market weakness, a day after news of a drop in October job openings.

The latest employment data reinforced expectations the Fed's rate-hike campaign is cooling the economy.

"Right now, it's consistent with the overall trajectory of softening job growth, and so far that's not problematic because the economy is still humming along," said Bill Merz, head of capital markets research at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

"What would be concerning is if that trend persists for too long, and it turns into large job losses."

Declines in energy stocks weighed on the major indexes, with oil prices dropping 4% as a larger-than-expected rise in U.S. gasoline inventories exacerbated worries about fuel demand.

Microsoft, Amazon and Nvidia also lost ground.

On Friday, the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report for November will offer greater clarity on the state of the labor market.

Investors widely expect the Fed to hold rates steady at its meeting next week and potentially start cutting rates in March.

A slim majority of economists in a Reuters poll said they believe the Fed will leave rates unchanged at least until July, later than earlier thought.

Optimism about rate cuts helped push the S&P 500 up nearly 9% in November, and the benchmark is now down about 9% from its record high close in December 2021.

Unofficially, the S&P 500 declined 0.39% to end the session at 4,549.37 points.

The Nasdaq declined 0.58% to 14,146.71 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.19% to 36,054.76 points.

Plug Power fell after Morgan Stanley downgraded the hydrogen fuel cell firm to "underweight" from "equal weight."

Tobacco giants Altria Group and Philip Morris International slipped after UK peer British American Tobacco said it will take a $31.5 billion hit from writing down the value of some U.S. cigarette brands.

Campbell Soup rallied after the food seller beat quarterly profit expectations, helped by higher prices for its packaged meals and snacks.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A in Bangalore, and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, California; Editing by Pooja Desai and Richard Chang)