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Overnight Markets: US stocks close flat ahead of jobs data

Overnight Markets: US stocks close flat ahead of jobs data

Wall Street closed little changed on Thursday as retailers slumped and ahead of Friday's payrolls report, which may provide clues to whether the Federal Reserve will accelerate the pace of stimulus cuts.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 18 points or 0.11%, to end at 16,445. The S&P 500 inched up just one point to finish at 1,838. The Nasdaq Composite dropped nine points or 0.23%, to close at 4,156.

Retail and telecom stocks were the biggest losers yesterday. A number of retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY.O) and Family Dollar (FDO.N), slashed their earnings forecasts. Telecom shares were pulled lower by AT&T and Verizon Communications, which were the top decliners in the Dow Jones industrial average.

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond fell 12.5%, while Family Dollar dropped 2.1% after reporting a weaker quarterly profit on Thursday as it discounted to win holiday shoppers.

Investors are also awaiting payrolls report to be released on Friday. Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have added 196,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters survey, slightly below November's count of 203,000.

In corporate news, Alcoa Inc (AA.N) fell 2.8% in extended-hours trading after the US aluminum producer reported a big quarterly loss.

Shares of Five Below Inc (FIVE.O), a teen-oriented retailer of trendy jewelry and other items priced at $1 to $5, also tumbled more than 15% in extended-hours trading after cutting its earnings outlook.

In the telecom sector, AT&T (T.N) shares ended down 2%, while Verizon Communications (VZ.N) slid 2.1% a day after T-Mobile reported a fourth-quarter boost in customer growth.

In contrast, Macy's (M.N) jumped 7.6% a day after the department store operator reported strong holiday sales.

Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) climbed 3.9% after the company's December same-store sales beat analysts' expectations.

The stock of Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc (ICPT.O) skyrocketed 281.1% after the company said an analysis by an independent safety committee showed its liver disease drug met the main goal of a mid-stage trial.

In Asia, shares declined on Friday in late morning trade after data showed China’s trade surplus narrowed and investors await reports US payrolls.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.2% to 139 as of 11:20 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Topix (TPX) index fell 0.5%. South Korea’s Kospi index declined 0.5%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.2%, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.5%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index was up 0.2% and Taiwan’s Taiex index advanced 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.5%, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.2%.

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