U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday, as the markets anxiously await Friday's jobs report.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.3%, the S&P 500 gained 0.35%, and the Nasdaq increased 0.09%.
Wall Street expects the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report that 190,000 jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in February. Average hourly wages were expected to gain 0.2%.
Friday's jobs report is the last reading on the labor market before the Federal Reserve's March meeting this month. The central bank hiked short-term interest rates back in December for the first time in nearly a decade. Given the spat of markets volatility since the start of the year, the markets are only pricing in a 2% chance of a second rate hike in March.
"I think the labor picture is fairly stellar in the U.S., but I think global conditions might very well prevent the Federal Reserve from doing anything too soon to prevent any sort of upheaval or volatility in the markets that we've become so used to," Brenda Kelly, head analyst at London Capital Group, said in an interview with TheStreet TV.
Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan stressed in a speech Thursday the importance of patience when it comes to the timing of the next interest rate hike. Kaplan holds an alternate vote in the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy.
Oil prices, which have driven much of the market volatility this year, were in flux much of Thursday. West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled at $34.57 a barrel, up 0.35%. Brent, the international price for oil, gained 0.6% to $37.02 a barrel. Investors remained worried about oversupply issues in global commodities markets.
The ISM Nonmanufacturing Index, an important gauge of the services sector, came in at 53.4 for February; analysts had expected a reading of 53.1. The index stood at 53.5 in January. Factory orders for January rose 1.6% but came in below estimates of 2%.
"The downturn in energy production and softness in manufacturing are drags, but overall the U.S. economy remains in good shape," PNC said economists in a note on Thursday.
Fourth-quarter productivity fell 2.2%, less than the 3.2% drop forecast by economists.
Herbalife (HLF) shares sank 7% after the company revealed that numbers on "active new members" were overstated in the past two quarters.
Costco Wholesale (COST) , a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, dropped 0.08% after reporting fiscal second-quarter earnings of $1.24 a share, missing Wall Street estimates of $1.28. Revenue stood at $28.17 billion, 2.6% higher than the same time last year, but short of the $28.42 Wall Street was looking for. Overhead expenses soared 6% year over year.
"For long- term investors, we continue to believe Costco's unique, membership-based business model, wide and sustainable competitive moat, strong return on capital, healthy balance sheet ($11 cash per share) and consistent execution all contribute to its scarcity value in retail," Cramer and Jack Mohr, director of research at Action Alerts PLUS, wrote in a note to clients.
Teen clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) reported fourth-quarter profit of 42 cents a share, matching analysts' forecasts. Revenue of $1.11 billion fell short of the $1.12 billion Wall Street was looking for. Shares fell 2.9%.
Kroger (KR) reported fourth-quarter earnings per share of 57 cents, beating estimates of 54 cents. Revenue was $26.2 billion, missing estimates of $26.29 billion. The company added 9,000 jobs in 2015. Shares lost 7%.
Ciena (CIEN) reported fiscal first-quarter earnings of 18 cents a share, eclipsing forecasts of 14 cents. Sales were $573.1 million, falling short of the $576.3 million analysts expected. Shares fell 18%.