US stocks Thursday ended mostly lower amid concerns about Friday's monthly US labor report and the kickoff of corporate earnings season.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.98 (0.11 percent) to 16,444.76.
The broad-based S&P 500 edged 0.64 (0.03 percent) higher to 1,838.13, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 9.42 (0.23 percent) to 4,156.19.
The results continued the sluggish start to the stock market in 2014. Leading indices have fallen three of four days this week.
Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Capital Markets, said investors fear that a strong US jobs report Friday will lead the US Federal Reserve to "more aggressively" scale back its stimulus.
At the same time, some "very disappointing" early earnings reports from retailers Family Dollar and Bed, Bath & Beyond has investors on edge about earnings season, Volokhine said.
Family Dollar dropped 2.1 percent nad Bed, Bath & Beyond sank 12.5 percent after both companies reported earnings that missed expectations.
Ford Motor rose 1.9 percent after announcing it will boost its first-quarter dividend by 25 percent to 12.5 cents per share. The company also said its policy is to "target a regular, growing dividend."
Alcoa shares fell 1.3 percent after the Justice Department announced charges that a joint venture in controls bribed Bahrain officials to get business; Alcoa agreed to settle the charges with US agencies for $384 million.
Carrier United Continental gained 6.8 percent after announcing its per-passenger-mile revenue rose strongly in December and that its overall fourth quarter capacity would be up a solid 2.6 percent from 2012.
Biotech firm Intercept Pharmaceuticals rocketed 281.1 percent after announcing positive results from trials of its treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a leading cause of cirrhosis and liver failure
Macy's jumped 7.6 percent after confirming its 2013 profit forecast based on a "successful" holiday shopping season and providing a 2014 forecast that bested analyst expectations. Separately, the company announced plans to slash 2,500 jobs.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury slipped to 2.96 percent from 2.99 percent Wednesday, while the 30-year fell to 3.87 percent from 3.88 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.