Stocks closed mostly lower as investors took profits from Wednesday's hefty jump in prices and looked nervously ahead to the government's employment report on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 51.29, to 10,537.05.
Broader indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was off 7.76 at 1317.64, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 3.49, to 2860.70.
"Taking profits is part of the story today after a big run-up on Wednesday, and the other part is waiting for tomorrow to see what September's employment numbers look like," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp.
The Dow climbed 187.75, to 10,588.34, on Wednesday as investors temporarily set aside worries about rising interest rates and focused on corporate earnings. But with the market's volatility during the past month amid nervousness over interest rates, many investors decided to take a prudent approach today and collect profits before the September employment report from the Labor Department.
The market will be scrutinizing the report to see if there are signs of inflation that could prompt the Federal Reserve to push rates higher at its next policy meeting next month.
But even if the job-creation and wage figures contained in the report signal that inflation is indeed under control, analysts expect a continuation of the price swings Wall Street has seen over the past few weeks. The Dow fell more than 1,100 points from an all-time closing high of 11,326.04 on Aug. 25 before recovering ground in recent sessions.
Larry Wachtel, a market analyst for Prudential Securities, said upcoming third-quarter earnings reports, which traders have been optimistically awaiting, will help some stock sectors, but not the overall market.
"In terms of the averages, you're not going to get a clear-cut bull market going," he said.
Although the technology-dominated Nasdaq index gave up early gains, some high-profile Internet stocks were higher. Among the notable performers, Yahoo soared 14 1/2, to 190 1/4, after the Internet directory company reported stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings results late Wednesday.
"I think Internet stocks have turned a corner," Johnson said. "But I've said that before."
Financial stocks, reflecting more nerves about interest rates, were mostly lower, including Chase Manhattan, down 1 3/8 at 74-9/16, and Bank of America, down 2-3/16 at 56-11/16.
American Home Products rose 3 5/8, to 48 3/4, after the drugmaker agreed to a $3.75 billion settlement over its once-popular fen-phen diet pills.