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Stocks end lower ahead of Fed chief's speech

Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET: Stocks closed Thursday lower, as investors looked to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech Friday at a symposium of central bankers for fresh trading incentives.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 107 points at the close.

Jobless claims were unchanged in the latest week, dashing hopes for a slight tick lower. The market didn't move on the data, indicating that the market's focus remains on Bernanke's address in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he could announce new measures to boost growth.

Bernanke is expected to stoke expectations for a third round of quantitative easing, though he may not detail the timing of the Fed's action.

European shares fell with investors reluctant to increase their exposure to riskier assets ahead of the Fed meeting. Japanese stocks also slid, finishing at a two-week closing low.

"The markets are just on hold and you know what we are waiting for. We are waiting to find out if there are going to be any hints" of QE3, said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.

Recent equity price movements have been muted, with the 0.3 percent dip implied by futures by far the biggest move of the week. The S&P has hardly moved over the past three days and hasn't closed with a 1 percent move in either direction since August 3.

The index has been pinned in a fairly tight range over the last three weeks, finding support at 1,400 while also unable to convincingly pierce the April high of 1,422.38, which has acted as a resistance point.

In other economic data, consumer spending rose by the most in five months, offering hope economic growth could pick up this quarter.

In company news, Pandora Media Inc surged after reporting adjusted second-quarter earnings that beat expectations and raising its full-year outlook.

Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $590 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit accusing it of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets.

Carlyle Group LP agreed to buy DuPont's performance coatings business for $4.9 billion in cash.

S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC said it will replace retailer Sears Holdings Corp with chemical maker LyondellBasell Industries NV in the S&P 500 after the close of trading on September 4.

U.S. stocks edged up just 0.1 percent Wednesday in the lightest trading of the year as investors held back from major trading decisions before Bernanke's speech.

Reuters contributed to this report.