Wall Street stocks close flat as investors wait for Friday jobs report
US stocks closed mostly unchanged as a rally in oil prices faded and investors waited for the release of a closely watched jobs report on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.45 points, or less than 0.1%, to 17,660.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.49 of a point, less than 0.1%, to 2,050.63 and the Nasdaq composite lost 8.55 points, or 0.2%, to 4,717.09.
As the week comes to a close, the market's focus is turning to the US jobs report for April due on Friday. Investors will be watching closely to see if it could have any impact on the Federal Reserve's plans for raising interest rates at its next policy meeting in June. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5%.
A private sector jobs report released by ADP on Wednesday showed that private employers created only 156,000 jobs last month, significantly below economists' estimates.
Ahead of Friday's numbers, investors remain reluctant to make any significant bets. Several traders and strategists have said there is no major catalyst to move the market higher at the moment.
"There's just too many unknowns right now, and there's nothing to get people going in the market. The jobs numbers may provide some guidance," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Crude oil prices gave up much of an early gain that had been driven by concerns that production could be impacted by a massive fire that swept through the Canadian oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Benchmark US crude oil rose 54 cents, or 1.2%, to 44.32 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 39 cents at 45.01 dollars a barrel in London. Oil had been up nearly 4% earlier in the day.
Despite what turned out to be a relatively modest rise in oil prices, energy companies were still the best performing part of the market. The energy component of the S&P 500 rose 0.7%.
A number of companies fell after releasing earnings and forecasts that did not impress investors. Electric car maker Tesla sank 11.03 dollars, or 5%, to 211.53 dollars after reporting a much wider loss than Wall Street analysts were expecting. The company suffered parts delays for its new Model X SUV.
Cereal maker Kellogg sank 1.97 dollars, or 2.6%, to 75.05 dollars after reporting declines in sales and earnings in the first quarter. SeaWorld sank 98 cents, or 5%, to 18.49 dollars after reporting a wider first-quarter loss as expenses climbed.
In other energy commodities, wholesale petrol rose less than 1 cent to 1.49 dollars a gallon, heating oil was unchanged at 1.33 dollars and natural gas fell 7 cents to 2.076 dollars per thousand cubic feet.
Bond prices rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.74% from 1.78% a day earlier. The euro fell to 1.1404 dollars from 1.1498 dollars and the dollar rose to 107.28 yen from 106.93 yen.
In metals, gold fell 2.10 dollars to 1,272.30 dollars an ounce, silver rose 3 cents to 17.33 dollars an ounce and copper fell 3 cents to 2.15 dollars a pound.