Stocks little changed after payroll survey

Stocks wound up pretty much where they started after a report of modest hiring gains at U.S. businesses failed to excite investors.

Payroll processor ADP said U.S. businesses added 139,000 jobs last month, up slightly from January.

Movers for the day included Exxon Mobil, which fell 3 percent after saying it will cut capital spending this year. Brown-Forman rose 4 percent after reporting better sales of its flagship Jack Daniel's brand and other liquors.

The S&P 500 closed down a fraction of a point at 1,873 Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 35 to 16,360. The Nasdaq composite edged up 6 to 4,357.

Va. shipbuilder gets $1.295B for Navy work

Newport News Shipbuilding is continuing its work on the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.

The division of Huntington Ingalls Industries announced this week that it has received a $1.295 billion extension to a Navy contract to continue preparations for the construction of the nuclear-powered ship.

This will be the second carrier named after Kennedy. The USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007.

Safety group demands car recall data from GM

U.S. safety regulators are demanding that General Motors turn over reams of documents and other data showing what the company knew when about a dangerous ignition problem that has been linked to 13 crash deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how GM handled the problem, which triggered the recall of 1.6 million older-model compact cars worldwide. GM has acknowledged it knew of the ignition troubles a decade ago but didn't recall the cars until last month.

In a 27-page order sent to GM Tuesday, NHTSA demanded pictures, memos, electronic communications, engineering drawings and other data to answer questions about the case. The reply, which must be signed under oath by a company officer, is due April 3. A spokesman said GM is cooperating.

NHTSA wants the documents to determine if GM delayed its response or withheld evidence. In either case, NHTSA could fine GM up to $35 million. Automakers are required to inform NHTSA of safety defects within five days of discovering them. GM made $3.8 billion last year.

GM's new CEO Mary Barra has promised an "unvarnished" internal investigation to figure out what happened and prevent it from recurring.

Survey: Winter storms holding back economy

A Federal Reserve survey shows severe winter weather held back economic growth in much of the nation from January through early February. Even so, conditions improved in most U.S. regions, helped by slight gains in areas such as employment and commercial real estate.

Eight of the Fed's 12 regions reported improved activity, according to the Beige Book survey released Wednesday.

The Beige Book is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered when the Fed meets March 18-19.

Nominee for SBA head passes first Senate test

Maria Contreras-Sweet is one step closer to becoming head of the Small Business Administration.

The Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship approved Contreras-Sweet's nomination Wednesday by a unanimous voice vote. Contreras-Sweet now faces a vote by the full Senate.

Wire reports