Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:28 AM ET
Stocks opened flat on Thursday as economic data continued to paint a mixed picture of the economy and as investors sifted through a host of corporate earnings reports.
The Dow Jones industrial average is down 3 points to 13,907. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell a fraction to 1,501. The Nasdaq is up 4 points to 3,146.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits last week jumped 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The claims data comes ahead of Friday's payrolls report, which is expected to show employers added 160,000 jobs in January after an increase of 155,000 in December.
A separate report showed incomes rose by 2.6 percent in December, the most in eight years, in a positive sign that could propel the economy forward.
The S&P 500 is up 5.3 percent for the month, after legislators in Washington temporarily sidestepped a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could have derailed the economic recovery, and amid improving economic data and better-than-expected corporate earnings.
But the benchmark index has stalled recently and is virtually flat for the week, hovering near the 1,500 mark, as investors look for more catalysts to justify further gains.
"Unfortunately it's still a mixed picture, it appears we are just getting a lot of conflicting data right now," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
"There is certainly a lot of information coming out this week - a lot of economic data, a lot of earnings and of course we have the employment number looming Friday, so with 1,500 right here, my guess is there is just not enough conviction to push us substantially higher yet."
United Parcel Service Inc. says it was slowed down in the fourth quarter by weak global trade and a disappointing holiday-shopping season.