The S&P 500 was little changed on Thursday, pressured by weak natural resources shares and tepid May sales by U.S. retailers, while caution before Friday's unemployment report pushed investors to the sidelines.
Weakness in the euro also kept a lid on stocks, while the S&P 500 encountered resistance around its 200-day moving average.
It's more like apathy than it is any kind of dynamic momentum, said Nick Kalivas, vice president of financial research & senior equity index analyst at MF Global in Chicago.
There is a limited willingness to take the market higher in front of the jobs report.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc slid 5.1 percent to $65.48 as copper prices fell to a two-week low on fears about a slower recovery in China, a top metals consumer. The S&P materials sector <.GSPM> lost 1.8 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 22.90 points, or 0.22 percent, to 10,226.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was off 0.23 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,098.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 9.56 points, or 0.42 percent, to 2,290.63.
The S&P 500 and the euro have tracked each other very closely over the last 30 days, with a positive 0.89 correlation. The two have tended to move in lock-step since as barometers of investors' appetite for risk. Traders use the euro as a proxy for concerns about the European debt crisis.
The S&P this morning could not get through the 200-day moving average at 1,106. Financials have been sloppy and there is the old problem of a weak euro, said Elliot Spar, options and market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus & Co in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.
All of these factors conspired to overpower the good breadth that the market had as it started to pull back from the intraday highs.
The S&P retail index <.RLX> slipped 0.4 percent as retailers posted lackluster May same-store sales -- up 2.5 percent, on average, versus expectations of 2.6 percent growth.
Costco Wholesale Corp fell 2.2 percent to $57.68 after its sales missed estimates, while BJ's Wholesale Club Inc lost 3.5 percent to $38.41.
In a data-heavy morning, investors got a picture of the jobs market ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for May. Data showed private employers added jobs in May and initial jobless claims fell last week. Economists are expecting Friday's report to show the economy added 513,000 jobs.
In other data, the services sector grew for a fifth straight month in May and new orders received by U.S. factories rose in April.
The Nasdaq fared better than the other two indexes, rising as Google Inc increased by 2.2 percent to $504.37.
(Additional reporting by Doris Frankel in Chicago; Editing by Kenneth Barry)