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US stocks finish mixed ahead of jobs report

US stocks have finished mixed after a busy day of economic data releases ahead of Friday's closely-watched monthly jobs report.

NEW YORK: US stocks finished mixed on Thursday after a busy day of economic data releases ahead of Friday's closely-watched monthly jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.97 points (0.13 per cent) to 16,558.87, while the broad-based S&P 500 slipped a scant 0.27 of a point (0.01 per cent) to 1,883.68.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, by far the weakest of the three indices over the last six weeks, rose 12.90 points (0.31 per cent) to 4,127.45.

Investors digested a mountain of economic data that showed promising signs for consumer spending and manufacturing activity but disappointing results in terms of construction spending and jobless claims.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said investors will "put a lot more weight" into Friday's jobs report compared with other data points.

It's a "new wait and see in front of the jobs numbers," Hogan said.

Dow member ExxonMobil reported earnings of $2.10 per share, above the $1.88 forecast by Wall Street analysts. But revenues missed expectations and the company reported a 5.6 per cent fall in oil and gas production. Exxon shares declined 1.0 per cent.

Satellite TV firm DirecTV got a lift from a Wall Street Journal report that said it was approached by a potential acquirer, US telecoms giant AT&T, in a deal that could be worth $40 billion. DirecTV rose 4.1 per cent, while AT&T dipped 0.3 per cent.

US shares of AstraZeneca rose 2.6 per cent following reports that Pfizer plans to sweeten its proposal to acquire the British pharmaceutical giant. Pfizer fell 0.4 per cent.

Ford Motor announced that Alan Mulally will step down as chief executive on July 1, and named chief operating officer Mark Fields to replace him. Mulally, a former Boeing executive, is credited with a successful turnaround of the US's second-biggest automaker.

Ford also said its US sales declined one percent in April. Ford shares fell 1.5 per cent.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.61 per cent from 2.65 per cent Wednesday, while the 30-year fell to 3.41 per cent from 3.46 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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