Stocks close mostly flat as investors await jobs report – Los Angeles Times

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Stocks closed mostly unchanged Thursday, as an earlier rally in oil prices faded and investors waited for the release of a closely watched jobs report.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.45 points, or less than 0.1%, to 17,660.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.49 of a point, less than 0.1%, to 2,050.63 and the Nasdaq composite slipped 8.55 points, or 0.2%, to 4,717.09.

As the week comes to a close, the market’s focus is turning to the U.S. jobs report for April, due out Friday. Investors will be watching to see if it could have any effect on the Federal Reserve’s plans for raising interest rates at its next policy meeting in June. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5%.

Ahead of Friday’s numbers, investors remain reluctant to make any significant bets. Several traders and strategists have said there is no major catalyst to move the market higher at the moment.

“There’s just too many unknowns right now, and there’s nothing to get people going in the market. The jobs numbers may provide some guidance,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

Crude oil prices gave up much of an early gain that had been driven by concerns that production could be impacted by a massive fire that swept through the Canadian oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 54 cents, or 1.2%, to $44.32 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 39 cents at $45.01 a barrel. Oil had been up nearly 4% earlier in the day.

Despite what turned out to be a relatively modest rise in oil prices, energy companies were still the best performing part of the market. The energy component of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.7%.

A number of companies fell after releasing earnings and forecasts that didn’t impress investors. Electric car maker Tesla sank 5% to $211.53 after reporting a much wider loss than analysts were expecting. The company suffered parts delays for its new Model X SUV.

Cereal maker Kellogg sank 2.6% to $75.05 after reporting declines in first-quarter sales and earnings.

Fitbit plunged 18.8% to $13.88 after the maker of fitness trackers posted strong results but said it will spend more money on research and development and sales.

Wholesale gasoline rose less than a cent to $1.49 a gallon, heating oil was unchanged at $1.33 and natural gas fell seven cents to $2.076 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Bond prices rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.74% from 1.78%. The euro fell to $1.1404 from $1.1498 and the dollar rose to 107.28 yen from 106.93 yen.

Gold fell $2.10 to $1,272.30 an ounce, silver rose three cents to $17.33 an ounce and copper fell three cents to $2.15 a pound.