U.S. equities closed flat Thursday as investors got ready for key employment data.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3 points, with Johnson & Johnson contributing the most gains. The S&P 500 closed above breakeven, with health care leading advancers decliners. The Nasdaq composite eked out a gain.
"This is a market that has encountered some buying exhaustion," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. "I think it's gotten to the point where, to keep going up, you need to keep getting surprised or put a down payment on what the future holds."
The February nonfarm payrolls report is scheduled for Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET. On Wednesday, ADP and Moody's said private companies added 298,000 jobs last month, shattering estimates. Goldman Sachs and UBS subsequently raised their estimates for Friday's report following ADP's blowout number.
But Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, said that pace of jobs creation was not sustainable at this stage. "When you have low unemployment, it puts a ceiling on how many more jobs you can add," he said.
Friday's report will be key for Wall Street as it looks for one more item confirming the Federal Reserve will raise rates next Wednesday.