U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday, breaking two days of losses amid details of quantitative easing in the euro zone and anticipation of Friday's nonfarm payrolls report.
It's "basically a market just buying time ahead of tomorrow's employment data," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. He expects the addition of 228,000 jobs and the unemployment rate unchanged at 5.7 percent.
February U.S. jobs report is scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m., before the bell on Friday. Analysts expect about 240,000 nonfarm payrolls, below last month's 257,000. Hourly earnings and unemployment will be key indicators for investors seeking insight on the Fed's timing of an interest rate hike.
The S&P struggled to stay in positive territory, while the Dow and Nasdaq held modest gains. U.S. stocks ended lower for each of the last two days, pulling back from Monday's records that sent the Nasdaq above 5,000 in the close for the first time since March 2000.
The European Central Bank will start its 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) bond-buying program on Monday, March 9, with expectations to end in September 2016, President Mario Draghi said during a press conference on Thursday. He also raised regional growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016 to 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
"After a while the market settled into a pretty flat day," said Chuck Self, chief investment officer of ETF strategy advisor iSectors. "There's a lot of controversy over how effective the QE plan is going to be."
European equities closed higher on the news and U.S. stocks initially traded about 0.5 percent higher.
"We got a little lift from (Draghi) and we're waiting for a host of economic data," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
The euro dipped below $1.10 for the first time since September 2003.
Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, noted that there's "not much support to hang one's hat on until (the Euro is) closer to $1.07."