Stocks ended mostly flat on Thursday as investors looked ahead to Friday's jobs report, amid growing tensions between the United States and other global powers.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6 points, with UnitedHealth Group contributing the most losses and Merck the most gains. The S&P 500 gained 0.06 percent, with telecommunications falling 1.2 percent to lead decliners and real estate outperforming. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.11 percent.
"Now that we're past the Fed, the next big worry for the market is the jobs report. I think investors are taking a wait-and-see approach ahead of the report," said Adam Sarhan, CEO at 50 Park Investments. "So far, there have not been any economic disasters [since the election]; that's why you're seeing markets hold just below all-time highs."
Recent employment data has been strong, with ADP and Moody's reporting private firms added 246,000 jobs last month, well above estimates.
Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, said he expects the labor market's momentum to continue at least throughout the spring. "This is the largest jobs expansion we've seen on record. Expansions don't die of old age; they die of economic shocks," he said. "We're also riding high on a wave of consumer confidence."
The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged Wednesday, following its first monetary policy meeting. The central bank also gave little clues when it may be raising rates next.
Investors also contended with the latest news out of the White House. President Donald Trump warned Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop "bad hombres down there" unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.