US stocks stall ahead of jobs report today - New York Report

US stocks closed modestly higher in light trading yesterday as investors held back on big bets ahead of today’s jobs report, which is expected to be a big factor in influencing the timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike.

Focus on the report was heightened as many investors see it as one of the most import economic indicators due to be released ahead of the Fed’s meeting in mid-March.

“People are anticipating some fireworks tomorrow. That’s the best way to describe the waiting today,” said Paul Schatz, president and chief investment officer at Heritage Capital in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

The S&P and the Dow had hit records and the Nasdaq surpassed 5,000 at the start of the week after a strong February performance for US stocks, giving additional reason for investors to take a breather yesterday.

European news was some help to US markets but higher-than-expected US jobless claims took “a little bit of the wind out of the sails”, said Paul Brigandi, managing director of portfolio management at Direxion Funds in New York.

Initial jobless claims rose to 320,000 in the latest week, above the 295,000 estimate. The disappointing numbers came after a weaker-than-expected private payrolls report on Wednesday and ahead of today’s monthly employment report.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.82 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 18,135.72, the S&P 500 gained 2.51 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 2,101.04 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.67 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 4,982.81.