Investing.com - U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday as investors jumped to the sidelines to await the release of the March jobs report on Friday, which markets hope will reveal how fast the U.S. economy is recovering.
At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow 30 ended the session flat, the S&P 500 fell 0.11%, while the Nasdaq fell 0.91%.
The Labor Department on Friday will release its March jobs report, and investors jumped into the safety of the dollar and avoided stocks on Thursday to await the data.
Many are hoping the nonfarm payrolls data will shed light as to how U.S. recovery is unfolding and indicate how fast the Federal Reserve will unwind its bond-buying program that has boosted stocks since late 2012.
The Fed''s bond-purchasing program, currently set at $55 billion a month, bolsters stocks by suppressing long-term borrowing costs, though a Fed decision to close the program reflects a stronger economy, which is also good for stocks, and investors spent Thursday in a wait-and-see mode before the report hits the wire.
Elsewhere, the Labor Department reported earlier that the number of individuals filing for unemployment assistance last week increased by 10,000 to 326,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 310,000.
Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 7,000 to 317,000 last week.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Supply Management said its non-manufacturing purchasing managers'' index rose to 53.1 in March from 51.6 in February, just slightly short of expectations for a reading of 53.5, though still an improvement nonetheless.
A separate report showed that the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened to $42.3 billion in February from a deficit of $39.28 billion the previous month.
Analysts had expected the U.S. trade deficit to narrow to $38.5 billion.
Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), up 1.95%, UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (NYSE:UNH), up 0.78%, and AT&T Inc (NYSE:T), up 0.72%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average''s worst performers included Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), down 0.83%, Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), down 0.73%, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS), down 0.72%.
European indices, meanwhile, finished largely higher.
After the close of European trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.60%, France''s CAC 40 rose 0.42%, while Germany''s DAX rose 0.06%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 fell 0.15%.
On Friday, stocks will move on the government''s nonfarm payrolls report and unemployment rate.
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