U.S. Stocks Barely Budge Ahead Of Monthly Jobs Report

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks wavered Thursday and finished barely higher as an interest rate cut by the Bank of England, a move intended to shore up the British economy, wasn’t enough to get investors out of their recent cautious mode.

Technology companies continued to make the biggest gains, as they’ve done over the last few months. Oil prices rose for the second day in a row, which hadn’t happened for almost three weeks. Bank stocks fell the most, as the interest rate cut suggests they won’t be able to make as much money on lending. While the Bank of England’s moves sent European stocks higher, investors in U.S. stocks moved carefully as they waited for Friday’s jobs report.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 2.95 points to 18,352.05. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index inched up 0.46 points to 2,164.25. The Nasdaq composite rose 6.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,166.25.

Technology stocks have done better than the broader market in the spring and summer, and on Thursday they were led higher by companies including Facebook and communications chipmaker Broadcom. Facebook rose $1.85, or 1.5 percent, to $124.36, and Broadcom gained $2.88, or 1.8 percent, to $166.99.

Materials companies made some of the biggest gains after strong earnings from Ball Corp. and Westrock. Ball, which makes metal and plastic packaging for food and drink companies, jumped $8.41, or 12 percent, to $78.51 and packaging company WestRock rose $1.77, or 4.2 percent, to $43.72.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.10, or 2.7 percent, to $41.93 a barrel in New York after a 3-percent climb Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil prices, added $1.19, or 2.8 percent, to $44.29 a barrel in London.

The Labor Department said applications for unemployment aid rose to 269,000 last week, a level close to historical lows and a positive sign for the job market. The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits has fallen more than 5 percent in last year, but the pace of hiring and economic growth slowed in the first half of 2016.

Mobile payments company Square climbed after it reported strong second-quarter results and raised its projections for the year. The stock rose 88 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $11.32.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.37 a gallon. Heating oil added 4 cents to $1.33 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The price of gold rose $2.70 to $1,367.40 an ounce. Silver fell 3 cents to $20.44 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.17 a pound.

Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.50 percent from 1.54 percent. The dollar inched up to 101.17 yen from 101.13 yen and the euro dipped to $1.1127 from $1.1145.