Category: Markets / Finance / January 31, 2013 6:45 PM EST
U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday (January 31) on caution ahead of Friday's (February 1) all-important jobs report, but the S&P 500 still posted its best monthly gain since October 2011.
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. EST (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.
In a separate report, the Commerce Department said American incomes rose 2.6 percent last month, the biggest increase since December 2004.
Friday will also bring reports on consumer confidence, U.S. manufacturing, construction spending and car sales.
Limiting losses on the Nasdaq composite index, Qualcomm QCOM.O gained 3.9 percent to $66.02 (USD) after the world's leading supplier of chips for cellphones beat analysts' expectations for quarterly profit and revenue and raised its targets for the year.
Facebook FB.O 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 aggressive estimates.
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.
(Video Source: Reuters)