Stocks edge lower in a session dominated by retailers.
Investors remained cautious ahead of Friday morning's big monthly jobs report. A number of economists have raised their projection on job growth for last month following a strong ADP report Wednesday and a sizable drop in jobless claims Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 18 points, the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) fell 9 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) ended virtually flat for a second straight day.
A number of leading retailers reported disappointing sales for the holiday season, and several others lowered their projections for 2014:
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) tumbled 12.5 percent, after posting weaker earnings and sales. It cut its outlook.
Home furnishings retailer Pier 1 (PIR) slid 11 percent.
Zumiez (ZUMZ), which sells sports apparel and equipment, fell 7.5 percent on weak holiday sales.
L Brands (LB), which owns Victoria's Secret and other chains, lost 4 percent and cut its outlook.
Family Dollar Stores (FDO) fell 2 percent on a sharp drop in earnings.
Three were also a few retail winners:
Costco (COST) rose 3.5 percent.
Walgreen Co. (WAG) gained 3 percent, both on strong sales.
There was some action outside of the retail sector, too.
Airline stocks rallied as American Airlines Group (AAL) reported a strong gain in passenger traffic last month. Shares of American and United Continental Group (UAL) both gained nearly 7 percent and Delta Air Lines (DAL) gained 4 percent.
Twitter (TWTR) fell 4 percent as yet another brokerage firm -- this time Cowen -- issued a downgrade. And it needed only 4 characters, not 140, to say, "sell." Twitter has been on a wild ride since going public in November. The IPO was priced at $26 a share. The stock rallied above $70 a share last month. Twitter shares ended Thursday trading at $57.05 a share.
And check out Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT). Shares of the biopharmaceutical company nearly quadrupled in price today after stopping a clinical trial early because its drug to treat liver cirrhosis was so successful.
What to Watch Friday:
The Labor Department releases December employment data at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The Commerce Department reports wholesale trade figures for November at 10 a.m.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.