Wall Street Wavers as Traders Brace for Jobs Report

By MarketsFOXBusiness

FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here

Wall Street capped the day little changed Thursday as traders anxiously awaited the December jobs report that could be marred by several unusual factors.

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Today's Markets 

According to preliminary calculations, Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 16.8 points, or 0.1%, to 16445, the S&P 500 rose 0.64 point, or 0.03%, to 1838 and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 9.4 points, or 0.23%, to 4156.

It's central bank day. The European Central Bank and Bank of England held their benchmark interest rates steady at record lows as the economic recovery across the pond continue revving up. The moves matched Wall Street's expectations. Still, as the U.S. Federal Reserve suggested Wednesday, low levels of inflation are causing concerns in many developed countries across the board.

A press conference by ECB chief Mario Draghi could help shed more light on the powerful central bank's monetary-policy plans.

Also on the economic front, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 330,000 from an upwardly revised 345,000 the week prior. Wall Street expected the number of claims to fall to 335,000 from an initially reported 339,000.Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas said employers announced plans to slash 30,623 jobs last month, down sharply from 45,314 the month before.

Both of these reports come ahead of the all-important monthly jobs reading from the Labor Department, due out on Friday. Economists at Goldman Sachs boosted their outlook on December jobs growth to 200,000 from 175,000 on Wednesday on the back of strong ADP data and other upbeat reports.

In corporate news, Macy's (NYSE:M) said it will lay off 2,500 workers as part of a plan to cut about $100 million in costs a year. Shares of the retailer surged on the news. Ford (NYSE:F) said it will increase its quarterly dividend 25% to 12.5 cents per share beginning in the first quarter. The shares traded higher by less than 1% in pre-market action.

BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) will pay $400,000 for an investigation into whether the world's biggest asset manager traded on non-public information. Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) shares plunged after the discount store cut its EPS outlook.

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures rose 46 cents, or 0.5%, to $92.79 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline jumped 0.84% to $2.679 a gallon. Gold advanced $4.20, or 0.34%, to $1,230 a troy ounce.

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