(CNBC) U.S. stocks closed near the flatline on Thursday as investors looked ahead to a key employment report.
"I think a large part of it is a good jobless claims number, which certainly gives more weight to tomorrow's jobs report," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank.
The Dow Jones industrial average held about 15 points lower, with Wal-Mart and American Express contributing the most losses. The S&P 500 traded just above the flatline, with materials leading advancers and health care the top decliner. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.17 percent, as the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) fell more than 2 percent.
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The three major indexes had traded further below the flatline earlier in the session, with the Dow falling 118.06 points at session lows.