Stocks seesawed in a tight range on Thursday as earnings reports drove individual shares, while a drop in jobless claims pointed to a slowly healing labor market before Friday's employment report.
Healthcare shares were among the losers. Drugmaker Merck & Co Inc
Technology shares outperformed the broader market. Qualcomm Inc
Data suggests the economy is on an uptrend of late. Investor sentiment was helped as new claims for jobless benefits dropped more than expected in the latest week. The government will report January payrolls data on Friday, a key release for stocks.
A decent number, and I would expect equities to continue their advance, a not decent number and we'll have a correction. It's that simple, said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading in Chicago.
U.S. employment growth probably slowed in January as temporary workers hired during the busy holiday shopping season were laid off, but the improving labor market trend should remain intact.
Nonfarm payrolls likely rose by 150,000 after increasing 200,000 in December, according to a Reuters survey. The unemployment rate is seen holding steady at a near three-year low of 8.5 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 7.68 points, or 0.06 percent, to 12,708.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 1.86 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,325.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 9.87 points, or 0.35 percent, to 2,858.14.
Insurer Cigna Corp
Boston Scientific Corp
Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Delta Global Asset Management in Boston, expects the current uptrend for the S&P 500 to take it to 1,370 in the first half of the year, but the index could pull back before then at around 1,330.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc
The third warmest January in 50 years hurt same-store sales at department stores and apparel retailers. But discounters such as Target and Costco as well as high-end stores beat estimates.
Facebook could raise as much as $10 billion in the biggest-ever Internet initial public offering, according to a filing Wednesday. In 2011, Facebook said net income rose 65 percent to $1 billion on revenue of $3.71 billion.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Kenneth Barry)