NEW YORK — Stocks seesawed today as traders balanced slightly better news on jobs against mixed results from PepsiCo Inc. The Dow Jones industrial average came within two points of 11,000 before turning slightly lower.
The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell last week, a better result than analysts were expecting. Retailers including Macy’s Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch and Limited Brands Inc. reported better-than-expected monthly sales.
Many traders were holding back ahead of the release Friday of the government’s closely watched monthly employment report, which is the most important event on the economic calendar and very often determines which way stocks and bonds will trade. Economists expect the unemployment rate climbed to 9.7 percent last month from 9.6 percent in August.
Claims for unemployment insurance have been falling steadily in recent weeks, but still indicate that employers aren’t ramping up hiring. Payroll company ADP said Wednesday that private employers slashed jobs in September for the first time in seven months.
High unemployment remains a main obstacle to stronger economic growth. Worries about jobs had been keeping a lid on spending in recent months, though retailers reported Thursday that sales improved modestly in September.
The Dow fell 3.71, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,963.94 in morning trading, after having been up as much as 31 points shortly after the open. The Dow hasn’t traded above 11,000 since May 4, shortly before the “flash crash” that sent indexes on a harrowing but brief plunge.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.03, or 0.1 percent, to 1,158.94, while the Nasdaq composite fell 2.84, or 0.1 percent, to 2,377.82.