Stocks closed mostly flat on Thursday, despite a rise in oil prices, as Wall Street looked ahead for Friday's jobs report.
"We've had some unusual volatility ... but the underlying trend has been lower," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, who expects the U.S. economy to have added about 150,000 jobs last month. The slowing trend "reflects big firms being more cautious hiring after Brexit and ahead of the election."
U.S. oil settled 2.7 percent higher at $41.93 a barrel, a day after surging more than 3 percent amid a drawdown in gasoline inventories.
"Today investors are just treading water," said Kim Forrest, senior equity strategist at Fort Pitt Capital. "I think we're looking for the jobs report to give us more [economic] clarity."
"Investors are keeping their powder dry for tomorrow to either buy or sell," she said. Economists polled by Reuters forecast the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs last month.
Investors also digest the Bank of England's first rate cut since 2009.
"It was a widely anticipated move," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. "They're afraid of a recession."
The BOE also increased its government bond-buying program by £60 billion to £435 billion. "QE is not a sign of strength; it's a sign of weakness," Cardillo said.