Updated from 4:02 p.m. EST

Stocks closed mostly higher Thursday on mixed economic data as traders looked ahead to the government's February employment report Friday morning.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 5.11 points to 10,588.00. The blue-chip index has now closed lower in 11 of the 15 sessions since it hit a 32-month high on Feb. 11.

The S&P 500 added almost 4 points, or 0.3%, to 1154.87, 3 points shy of the 23-month high it touched last month. The Nasdaq led the day, closing up 21.76 points, or just over 1%, to 2055.12.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange approached 1.3 billion shares, while some 1.8 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. On both markets, advancers outnumbered decliners by about 2 to 1.

After the markets closed, Intel ( INTC) narrowed its first-quarter revenue guidance to a range of $8 billion to $8.2 billion, compared with its previous forecast of $7.9 billion to $8.5 billion.

"All eyes are on tomorrow's job report," said Barry Ritholtz, a chief market strategist at the Maxim Group. "It's probably the most awaited report we've seen in many months. It's going to have a very significant impact on trading going forward."

Ritholtz noted that expectations for tomorrow's nonfarm payrolls report are unusually ambiguous. "Even the economists that typically move in a little bit of a herd are just all over the map with this," he said. "The range is just ridiculous; some of the pessimists are saying 75,000 and others are saying 225,000, while I've even heard 250,000." The consensus forecast is for 125,000 jobs, after a 112,000 gain in January.

Regardless of February's employment results, Richard T. Williams, an equity strategist with Summit Analytic Partners, believes a significant correction in the markets will inevitably occur sometime in the next few weeks. He pointed out that a strong February employment report from the government Friday may not boost stocks, because it could be seen as a factor in prompting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than expected.

"Now we're starting to get to the point where good news isn't good anymore and bad news may start meaning more, and that kind of change of tone is something that I've found correlates very well with corrections," Williams said. "Good employment numbers could mean higher rates will come sooner rather than later. Higher rates are a very real risk, and a higher dollar is a very real risk. If the dollar goes against U.S. companies, that has to be a negative, and it could be a powerful negative."

Overseas, London's FTSE climbed 0.7% to 4559, while Germany's Xetra DAX was up 1.5% to 4134. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed 0.4% higher at 11,402, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was flat at 13,452. The European Central Bank waved off political pressure to cut borrowing costs and left interest rates at 2% -- the lowest level in most euro-zone countries since World War II.