New York - US stocks ended the session mixed on Thursday after weekly jobless claims fell but Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke told Congress the jobs market had a long road to recovery.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 11.05 points to finish at 12 705.41.
The broad S&P 500 added 1.45 points to 1 325.54, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 11.41 points to 2 859.68.
Charles Schwab analyst said that traders "showed a lack of conviction ahead of tomorrow's jobs report.
"A larger-than-expected drop in jobless claims gave the bulls some early momentum, but Fed chairperson Ben Bernanke's cautious tone in testimony before Congress took some wind out of the market's sails," they said.
New claims for US unemployment benefits, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, fell last week and continued to trend lower, the Labour Department reported.
On Friday the department reports January labour data, expected to show the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.5% from December amid a fragile economic recovery.
Among stocks in focus, Qualcomm, the world's biggest maker of mobile-phone chips, gained nearly 2.0% after raising its full-year earnings forecast.
Merck fell 0.5% after a swing into profit in the fourth quarter that was better than expected.
Zynga, a maker of Facebook games, jumped 16.8%, after the social-networking giant late Wednesday filed its long-awaited initial public offering, seeking to raise $5bn.
NYSE Euronext shares rose 1.9% after it scotched its planned merger with Deutsche Boerse after EU regulators rejected it.
But rising more, up 8.4% was commodities and derivatives exchange operator CME, which faced tougher competition in the merger.
Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.83% from 1.85% on Wednesday, while the 30-year slipped to 3.01% from 3.02%.
Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.