Stocks Close Mixed; Jobs Report Looms - TheStreet

Stocks Close Mixed; Jobs Report Looms

Stocks ended mostly lower on Thursday as investors nervously awaited tomorrow's jobs report for September.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks ended mostly lower on Thursday as investors nervously awaited the September jobs report on Friday.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

shed 19 points, or 0.2%, to 10,948. The blue-chip index got within 2 points of 11,000 at its high for the session. The

S&P 500

fell nearly 2 points, or 0.2%, to 1,158, while the

Nasdaq

managed to eke out a small 3-point gain to 2,383

Shares of

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

,

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

and

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

outperformed other Dow components, while

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

,

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

and

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

dragged the index lower.

Shortly after the closing bell, Alcoa reported an adjusted profit of 9 cents a share, coming in 3 cents ahead of Wall Street's consensus estimate. The company also lifted global aluminum consumption forecast to 13 percent from 12 percent for 2010, saying the increasing ranks of the middle class in China, Brazil, India, and Russia are driving greater demand. The stock was already trading up 3% in afterhours action at $12.55.

The markets stuck to a narrow trading zone for most of the day as investors sat on the sidelines ahead of the jobs report. The labor department said early Thursday that

initial weekly jobless claims shed 11,000 to 445,000 in the week ended Oct. 2, better than the 455,000 claims that analysts had been expecting, according to Briefing.com.

While the weekly claims figure was positive, David Chalupnik, head of equities at First American Funds, said he doesn't expect Friday's nonfarm payrolls number to stray too far from consensus estimates and said underlying internals like the average work week and average hourly earnings could have more market-moving potential.

"It's going to be interesting because I think the market is kind of protected to the downside because even if the number is lower than expected, the market will likely take that as confirmation that further quantitative easing is needed," he said. "So, my expectations for the market tomorrow are flat to up."

Shares of

Costco Wholesale

(COST) - Get Report

shed 0.7% to $64.79 despite a higher target and stronger estimates from Morgan Stanley as Citigroup lowered its target and estimates for the retailer, and McAdams Wright downgraded the stock to hold from buy.

Shares of

ReneSola

(SOL) - Get Report

jumped 8.3% to $13.25 after Macquarie Research said the market was underestimating the growth potential of Chinese solar stocks.

JPMorgan hiked

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

price target to $400 a day after a

Wall Street Journal

report said Apple will end its iPhone carrier exclusivity with

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

to offer a

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

version that will go on sale early next year. JPMorgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said the Verizon iPhone will lift Apple's earnings 11% annually. Apple's stock ended flat at $289.40 and AT&T's stock was down by 1.3% at $28.35. Shares of Verizon fell 1.3% to $32.93.

PepsiCo

(PEP) - Get Report

trimmed the top end of its full-year profit guidance to a range of 11% to 12% from its previous outlook for growth of 11% to 13%. The company also reported third-quarter earnings of $1.19 a share on revenue of $15.51 billion. Analysts had been looking for a quarterly profit of $1.22 a share on sales of $15.37 billion. The stock shed 2.9% to $66.10.

French automaker

Renault

sold a portion of its stake in

Volvo

, raising 28.2 billion Swedish kroner ($4.23 billion).

In global news, both the

Bank of England

and the

European Central Bank

kept interest rates unchanged. The BOE held rates at a record low of 0.5% for the 20th consecutive month and made no changes to its asset purchase program. The European Central Bank kept its main interest rate at 1%.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched 0.02% higher while Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.07%. The FTSE in London lost 0.3%, while the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.09%.

The Energy Information Administration said natural gas inventories gained 85 billion cubic feet in the week ended Oct. 1, which was much bigger than the increased range of 74 billion to 78 billion cubic feet that analysts polled by Platts had been projecting.

Following the EIA report, natural gas for November delivery settled slightly lower at $3.617 per British thermal unit while the November crude oil contract settled lower by $1.56, to $81.67 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodity markets, the December gold contract slipped off its highs to settle $11 lower at $1,346.40 an ounce.

The dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.05%, while the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was up 2/32 with a yield of 2.385%.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Venkataraman in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.