* Bed Bath & Beyond, Family Dollar drag retailers
* Firming U.S. economy seen supporting job market
* Nonfarm payrolls forecast up 196,000 in December
* Telecom stocks weigh; AT&T, Verizon are Dow's top
* Dow down 0.1 pct, S&P 500 up 0.03 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 9 U.S. stocks ended little changed
on Thursday in a choppy session ahead of Friday's payrolls
report, which may provide insights into whether the Federal
Reserve will announce another cut in quantitative easing at its
meeting this month.
Retail and telecom stocks ranked among the day's biggest
losers. The S&P retail sector index slipped 0.2 percent
after a number of retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond
and Family Dollar, slashed their earnings
forecasts. The S&P telecom services sector index fell
1.9 percent, pulled lower by AT&T and Verizon Communications,
which were the top decliners in the Dow Jones industrial
Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have added 196,000 jobs
last month, according to a Reuters survey of economists,
slightly below November's count of 203,000. Hiring would,
however, be above the monthly average of 188,545 jobs over the
first 11 months of 2013.
"There is a bit of hesitancy going into the jobs report and
the start of earnings season. The interest is still there for
equities, but with caution," said Robert Pavlik, chief market
strategist of Banyan Partners LLC in Palm Beach Gardens,
Florida. He added that fourth-quarter earnings will show whether
corporate results can keep up with last year's rally in
The U.S. central bank said last month it would begin
trimming its stimulative monthly bond purchases. Minutes from
the Fed's most recent meeting showed its top officials were keen
to steer a delicate path and many of them stressed that future
decisions were not set in stone.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.98 points or
0.11 percent, to end at 16,444.76. The S&P 500 inched up
just 0.64 of a point, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 1,838.13.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.417 points or 0.23
percent, to close at 4,156.194.
Alcoa Inc fell 2.8 percent in extended-hours trading
after the U.S. aluminum producer reported a big quarterly loss
as it took a $1.7 billion non-cash impairment charge on past
smelter acquisitions. During the regular session,
Alcoa slid 1.3 percent to close at $10.69.
Many large U.S. retailers cut their earnings forecasts
because of steep discounts they offered during the holidays to
persuade reluctant consumers to buy. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond
fell 12.5 percent to end at $69.75 a day after the company
lowered its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings estimates.
Family Dollar reported a weaker quarterly profit on Thursday
as it discounted to win holiday shoppers. The stock dropped 2.1
percent to close at $64.97.
AT&T and Verizon Communications shares slumped
a day after T-Mobile reported a fourth-quarter boost in customer
growth and offered to pay customers to switch from rival
services, escalating already intense competition in the U.S.
wireless market. AT&T shares ended down 2 percent at $33.54.
Verizon's stock slid 2.1 percent to $47.50.
Macy's was a bright spot for retailers. Its stock
jumped 7.6 percent to $55.80 a day after the department store
operator reported strong holiday sales and gave a preliminary
forecast for 2014 that suggests it will continue to outpace its
Costco Wholesale Corp climbed 3.9 percent to
$118.51 after the company's December same-store sales beat
The stock of Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc
skyrocketed 281.1 percent to $275.87 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.