NEW YORK, May 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks ended in narrowly mixed territory Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreating slightly from a record close the prior day, as investors grew cautious ahead of the country's closely-watched non- farm report for April.
The Dow fell 21.97 points, or 0.13 percent, to 16,558.87. The broader S&P 500 inched down 0.27 point, or 0.01 percent, to 1,883. 68. The Nasdaq Composite Index rallied 12.90 points, or 0.31 percent, to 4,127.45.
The market staged a volatile trading session before closing little changed, as investors were looking ahead to the non-farm payroll report due out Friday by the Labor Department after U.S. gross domestic product in the first quarter missed market expectations Wednesday.
On the previous trading day, private payroll processor ADP reported that U.S. private sectors added 220,000 jobs in April, the strongest gain in five months, pushing the blue-chip Dow toward its record intraday high of 16,631.63 points set on April 4.
The tech-rich Nasdaq, which had underperformed another two indices amid tech-bubble worries, managed to hold small gains amid continuing selling pressure.
For April, the tech-rich Nasdaq shed 2.0 percent, while the blue-chip Dow and the broader S&P 500 advanced 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
Economic data came out mixed in the day, providing not many upward jolts for the market.
The number of Americans who initially applied for jobless benefits in the week ending April 26 increased 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 344,000, the highest level since February, the Labor Department said before the opening bell. Meanwhile, U.S. personal income increased 0.5 percent in March, the strongest gain since last August. While personal consumption expenditures surged 0.9 percent, the fastest pace in more than four and a half years, according to the Commerce Department.
In a separate report, the department announced that U.S. construction spending for March advanced 0.2 percent compared with February, but still fell short of market consensus.
Meanwhile, the April U.S. Purchasing Managers'Index registered 54.9, up from March's reading of 53.7, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The number also exceeded analyst estimates.
On the earnings side, a pair of energy giants, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhilips, released quarterly results. Exxon Mobil reported lower profit for the first quarter but still beat market forecasts, while ConocoPhillips reported flat first-quarter earnings. The Exxon Mobil's shares lost 0.98 percent to 101.41 dollars apiece while the latter's shares rose 0.97 percent to 75. 03 dollars apiece.
So far, 70 percent of the S&P 500 companies, or the 351 companies, have released first-quarter earnings reports, among which 68.1 percent topped analyst expectations on earnings, and 52. 2 percent surpassed market consensus on revenues, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, dropped 1.19 percent to end at 13.25 Thursday.
In other markets, oil prices declined Thursday on concerns over slowing China's economic growth and the prospect of increasing supply from Libya. Light, sweet crude for June delivery fell 0.32 dollars to settle at 99.42 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange logged a four-day losing streak Thursday, with the most active gold contract for June delivery down 12.5 dollar to settle at 1,283.4 dollars per ounce.
The U.S. dollar rose Thursday against most major currencies amid a string of mixed U.S. economic data as investors still awaited the non-farm payroll report for April.
In late New York trading, the euro dropped to 1.3865 dollars from 1.3872 dollars of the previous session, and the dollar bought 102.30 Japanese yen, higher than 102.11 yen in the previous session.