U.S. stocks closed narrowly mixed, attempting to extend a recovery as investors eyed fluctuations in oil prices and awaited the final jobs report before the Federal Reserve's key September meeting. ( Tweet This )
"I do think today's market is the market traders don't want to be in long because it could be very choppy if these numbers are indicative of a labor force that is expanding," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
Friday's nonfarm payrolls report is the last monthly employment report before the Federal Reserve meets in two weeks, when an announcement on interest rates is widely anticipated.
Stocks gave up much of opening gains to dip into negative territory in intraday trade.
The Nasdaq composite failed to hold higher and joined the other major averages in the red for 2015. Apple closed down 1.75 percent.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average ended about 0.10 percent higher. Earlier, the blue chip index gained as much as 198.69 points in a failed attempt to stay out of correction territory, with Goldman Sachs and IBM among the top contributors to gains.
"We're still in the midst of this correcting process where equities aren't being transitioned into stronger hands," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.
"That lends to this intraday rally and decaying until we have selling exhaustion (to the point) that we don't see that decaying that we're seeing at the moment," he said, noting some traders taking profits ahead of Friday's jobs report.
The energy sector struggled to hold gains after earlier spiking more than 2 percent on a surge in oil prices. Crude briefly turned negative in afternoon trade before settling up 50 cents, or 1.08 percent, at $46.75 a barrel.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite closed out of correction territory to within 10 percent of their 52-week highs. The major averages are still on track for weekly losses of nearly 2 percent.
"The key focus on today's trade is we're still rebounding. We strengthened into the close yesterday," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "China being closed helps with (alleviating) pressure and downside volatility."