By Caroline Valetkevitch
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks gave up early gains to end flat on Thursday as consumer discretionary shares fell and investors showed caution ahead of the April jobs report.
L Brands, which fell 12 percent to $70.53 after posting lower-than-expected monthly comparable sales, led declines in discretionary shares along with Amazon, down 1.8 percent at $659.09. The S&P retail index was down 1.5 percent while the S&P consumer discretionary index fell 0.6 percent.
Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, posting the biggest jump in more than a year.
Investors anxiously awaiting Friday's U.S. jobs data for April will comb through the report for any signs of how the labor market could influence the pace of rate hikes.
"Weekly jobless claims came in a bit higher than expected, and when you combine them with the ADP report from yesterday, that raises the possibility the national employment report tomorrow could be a bit on the softer side," said Michael Sheldon, chief investment officer at Northstar Wealth Partners in West Hartford, Connecticut.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 9.45 points, or 0.05 percent, to 17,660.71, while the S&P 500 lost 0.49 point, or 0.02 percent, to 2,050.63, its third straight session of losses.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 8.55 points, or 0.18 percent, to 4,717.09.
The ADP private sector employment report on Wednesday showed hiring in April fell to its lowest in three years.
A Reuters survey ahead of Friday's government report showed nonfarm payrolls likely rose by 202,000 last month, after rising 215,000 in March, while the unemployment rate is forecast to hold at 5 percent.
Shares of Tesla fell 5 percent to $211.53 after analysts expressed doubts about the electric carmaker's ability to deliver vehicles ahead of schedule.
Energy shares were among the day's advancers, but off their days highs, as oil prices gave up early gains. The S&P 500 energy index was up 0.7 percent.
Also helping to limit the day's losses, Kraft Heinz jumped 3.7 percent to end at $82.97 and hit a record high of $84.17 after its quarterly profit smashed analysts' estimates.
After the bell, Yelp rose 8.5 percent to $23.25 following its results, while Tableau Software was down 13.7 percent at $44 also after its results.
First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are mostly beating analysts' expectations, but are still estimated down 5.3 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.
About 7.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,559 to 1,415, for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,778 issues fell and 1,014 advanced for a 1.75-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and five new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 54 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal and Sam Forgione; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish)