Stock traders didn't take any chances today, letting stocks float around the break-even mark while they waited for tomorrow's crucial report on the job market.
Though the price of oil fell, labor costs rose more than expected and retail sales were tepid, none of those developments provided much motivation for the market.
Stocks opened lower, but the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index quickly broke into positive territory and was joined by other indexes later in the day.
The Nasdaq composite ended the day almost 10 points higher at 2,097.64, which is a four-and-a-half-month high, but still leaves the Nasdaq down for the year. The rest of the market barely budged. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up less than 4 points at 10,553.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index gained 2 points to 1,204.29.
Tomorrow could bring a more meaningful day, because before the opening bell the government will release the monthly report on unemployment and job growth--a key measure of how the economy is doing.
Today's Labor Department report on labor costs during the first quarter showed the job market is tight enough to push up wages. During the quarter labor costs grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate, which was considerably slower than the previous quarter's 7.7 percent pace, but still enough to raise worries about inflation.
Retail chains reporting their May sales today posted moderage gains--an average of 2.9 percent--with high end clothing purveyors and high fashion mall chains catering to teenages showing the best gains. Wal-Mart's sales gains came in a little below the industry average while rival Target rang up an increase of a little over 5 percent.
Worries about the recent runup in the price of crude oil eased as the trend finally broke and crude oil futures fell almost 2 percent to $53.63 a barrel.