* S&P posts best month since Oct 2011
* Non-farm payrolls report due Friday
* Qualcomm shares jump after earnings beat, support Nasdaq
* Indexes down: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq flat
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 31 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Thursday on caution ahead of Friday's all-important jobs report,
but the S&P 500 still posted its best monthly gain since October
The benchmark S&P 500 advanced 5.1 percent in January as
investors cheered a compromise that temporarily postponed the
impact of the "fiscal cliff" and fourth-quarter earnings were
better than expected.
The S&P 500 registered its largest monthly advance since a
rise of more than 6 percent in October 2011 and the best January
showing since a 6.1 percent jump in 1997. For the month, the Dow
gained 5.8 percent and the Nasdaq rose 4.1 percent.
Investors expect a pullback in equities after the recent
gains, though they have bought on dips over the past four weeks.
The largest daily decline on the S&P 500 so far in 2013 was
Wednesday's 0.39 percent drop after data showed the economy
contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012.
On Friday, the government is due to release January's
employment figures at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists polled by
Reuters expect non-farm payrolls to show employers added 160,000
jobs compared with a rise of 155,000 in December. The
unemployment rate is likely to hold steady at 7.8 percent.
A survey by payroll processing company ADP on Wednesday
showed private sector employment rose higher than expected last
month, but the government's measure of jobless benefits claims
increased last week.
"It's the calm before the potential storm. The uncertainty
about tomorrow's numbers comes from that fact that we had a
decent ADP report but the weekly claims were not so great," said
Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and
derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
In a separate report, the Commerce Department said American
incomes rose 2.6 percent last month, the biggest increase since
"We could see an overly sensitive market to a bad number
tomorrow, given that we've been up without a major correction,
and that makes the market sensitive to the downside."
Friday will also bring reports on consumer confidence, U.S.
manufacturing, construction spending and car sales.
Limiting losses on the Nasdaq composite index, Qualcomm
gained 3.9 percent to $66.02 after the world's leading
supplier of chips for cellphones beat analysts' expectations for
quarterly profit and revenue and raised its targets for the
Facebook shares fell 0.8 percent to $30.98 after
falling as low as $28.74 a day after the social network company
said it doubled its mobile advertising revenue in the fourth
quarter. However, growth trailed some of Wall Street's most
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 49.84
points, or 0.36 percent, at 13,860.58. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 3.85 points, or 0.26 percent, at
1,498.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.18
points, or 0.01 percent, at 3,142.13.
UPS shares lost 2.4 percent to $79.29 after
reporting fourth-quarter earnings that were below analysts'
estimates on Thursday and forecasting weaker-than-expected
profit for 2013.
Constellation Brands shares tumbled 17.4 percent to
$32.36 after the U.S. Justice Department moved to stop
Anheuser-Busch InBev from buying the half of Mexican
brewer Grupo Modelo that it does not already own.
Constellation would have distributed Corona beer in the United
States if the transaction had been approved.
Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning shows that of
the 231 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings
this season, 69.3 percent have exceeded expectations, a higher
proportion than over the past four quarters and above the
average since 1994.
Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings rose 3.7 percent,
according to Thomson Reuters data. That's above a 1.9 percent
forecast at the start of the earnings season but well below a
9.9 percent profit growth forecast on Oct. 1.