Stocks closed slightly lower ahead of Friday's Labor Department unemployment report, with most exchange-traded funds ending the session flat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 25 at 9256. The Nasdaq was down 20 at 1973 and the S&P 500 slipped 6 to 997.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits came in at a lower-than-expected 550,000 in the week ending Aug. 1, down from 588,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Initial claims were expected to be 580,000. Eyes now turn to the unemployment rate, which is scheduled to be released by the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Unemployment is expected to have climbed to 9.6% in July, up from 9.5% the previous month. Worse-than-expected private payroll data released by Automatic Data Processing Wednesday cast some doubt over economists' ability to accurately handicap the labor market this month.
In company news, Comcast posted improved earnings, while Wednesday's diminished results from Cisco Systems weighed down the Nasdaq.
For a detailed rundown on Thursday s trading session see our market story.
Among unleveraged ETFs, only the SPDR S&P Retail fund managed a genuinely positive showing, finishing up 0.8% on a better-than-expected forecast from Macy's (M)
Natural gas prices slid 6.7% in afternoon trading, pushing the United States Natural Gas fund 6% lower. Energy and metals declines pushed the iShares MSCI Canada Index fund down 2.2%.
Friday s Notebook
Earnings and Conference Calls
Allianz, Beacon Roofing Supply, Cogent Communications, Dune Energy, Exide, H.H. Gregg Appliances, Liberty Media, LifePoint Hospitals, Penwest Pharmaceuticals, Sun Communities, U.S. Concrete, Warner Chilcott
Employment Situation 8:30 a.m.
Consumer Credit 3:00 p.m.