U.S. stocks hold flat as investors get ready for jobs report

Stocks in Wall Street were little changed Thursday, with materials leading, as investors looked ahead for Friday’s jobs report.

“Today investors are just treading water,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity strategist at Fort Pitt Capital. “I think we’re looking for the jobs report to give us more [economic] clarity.”

“Investors are keeping their powder dry for tomorrow to either buy or sell,” she said. Economists polled by Reuters forecast the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs last month.

The Dow Jones industrial average held about 5 points lower, with Walt Disney contributing the most losses. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were both marginally higher.

Investors also digest the Bank of England’s first rate cut since 2009.

“It was a widely anticipated move,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. “They’re afraid of a recession.”

The BOE also increased its government bond-buying program by £60 billion to £435 billion. “QE is not a sign of strength; it’s a sign of weakness,” Cardillo said.

U.S. futures briefly jumped after the BOE’s announcement before holding near the flatline.

“This is yet another example of when the data deteriorates and the bears come out growling, a central bank somewhere in the world will print. The bears growl even louder and are either forced to become reluctant bulls, or they miss out on the rallies,” Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout, said in a note to clients.

The British pound, on the other hand, saw its biggest falls since the aftermath of June’s Brexit vote, trading about 1.5 percent lower versus the dollar, near $1.312. The dollar held about 0.2 percent higher against a basket of currencies, with the euro near $1.114 and the yen around 101.2.

“By looking at the decision of the policy members, it appears that they are very dovish and it is likely that there will be more interest rate cuts in the coming months. The bank clearly wants to use the monetary policy to combat the Brexit woes and it is committed to do whatever it takes. But, most traders are wary of the fact that quantitative easing has reached its limit and the bank may not be able to achieve its goal by using this,” Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said in a Thursday note to clients.

“When we look at sterling it has dropped off the cliff as short positions were substantially high before the decision and today’s verdict has just fuel the fire,” he said.

Investors also digested U.S. economic data, as weekly jobless claims came in slightly above expectations. U.S. factory orders for June fell 1.5 percent, less than expected.

“Bottom line, ahead of tomorrow’s July payroll report, the pace of firing’s remains modest for the reasons we’ve known for a while. And we’ve learned too that a benign pace of firing’s doesn’t contradict a slowing rate of job growth,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

Meanwhile, earnings season in the U.S. continued to wind down, as Viacom, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Kellog, among others, posted quarterly results. Tesla Motors also posted quarterly results Wednesday after the bell, falling short of estimates on both the top and bottom line.

U.S. oil rose about 2.6 percent in choppy trade to $41.89 a barrel, a day after surging more than 3 percent amid a drawdown in gasoline inventories.

Treasurys rose broadly, with the two-year note yield trading near 0.65 percent and the benchmark 10-year yield holding around 1.49 percent.

European equity markets rose broadly, with the FTSE 100 gaining about 1.6 percent and the German Dax advancing 0.57 percent. Asian shares rose overnight, with the Nikkei 225 gaining 1.07 percent and the Shanghai composite rising 0.13 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3 points, or 0.02 percent, to 18,351, with Disney leading decliners and Visa the top advancer.

The S&P 500 rose 1 point, or 0.05 percent, to trade at 2,164, with materials leading six sectors higher and financials lagging.

The Nasdaq rose 5 points, or 0.11 percent, to 5,165.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded lower, near 12.3.

About nine stocks advanced for every five decliners at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 390 million and a composite volume of 1.887 billion in afternoon trade.

Gold futures for December delivery rose $3.90 to trade $1,368.60 per ounce.

Source: CNBC