U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday, the final day of the quarter, as jobless claims fell less than expected but didn't change optimism about Friday's U.S. payrolls report for March.
The decline to 388,000 in claims for unemployment benefits last week was less than expected, but the drop still signaled improvement in the labor market.
The data also followed an encouraging ADP report on private-sector jobs and precedes Friday's employment report from the government.
Claims are going in the right direction, and that gives us hope that we'll see a good employment number tomorrow, said Jerry Harris, president of asset management at Sterne Agee in Birmingham, Alabama.
The week has been marked by some of the year's lowest volumes as traders opt to ride the quarter's gainers amid global risks. The S&P 500 is up 5.6 percent in the quarter, based on Wednesday's close.
Today will be quiet as people have already established their positions in preparation for a report that is expected to be positive tomorrow, Harris said.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 4.84 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,355.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.75 point, or 0.06 percent, at 1,327.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 0.98 point, or 0.04 percent, at 2,777.77.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index of Midwest business activity fell in March to 70.6 from 71.2 in February. The data was near economists' expectations and stocks reacted little.
David Sokol, the man widely seen as the leading successor to Warren Buffett to head up Berkshire Hathaway
In an interview on CNBC, Sokol said he did nothing wrong in buying the shares.
Berkshire's Class B shares fell 1.8 percent to $83.90.
The Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)