U.S. stocks edged higher on Thursday, building on a recent recovery as a rally in energy stocks offset dips in health and technology shares.
The S&P 500's modest increase followed four weeks of mostly steady gains that have left the index down 3 percent in 2016 after the worst January since 2009.
Despite those recent gains, many investors remained on the sidelines due to concerns the market could resume its decline.
"A lot of times you'll see a head fake and this potentially could be," said Andrew Bodner, president of Double Diamond Investment Group in Parsippany, New Jersey. "I need the market to show me this is real."
Earlier, data showed weekly jobless claims rose unexpectedly. Investors were also waiting for a comprehensive labour report for February on Friday that is expected to show an addition of 190,000 jobs, up from a gain of 151,000 in January.
Brent crude prices, which are up about 35 percent from last month's lows, were largely steady. [O/R]
At 2:41 p.m. (1941 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.08 percent at 16,912.6 and the S&P 500 had gained 0.15 percent to 1,989.38. The Nasdaq Composite was 0.07 percent lower at 4,700.26.
Seven of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors gained, with the energy sector up 1.16 percent. The health index fell 0.61 percent and the technology sector lost 0.32 percent, pulled down by a 1.41 percent dip in Microsoft.
Solid economic data could bolster expectations that the Federal Reserve remains on track to raise interest rates this year. Fed funds futures suggested traders are pricing in a 61 percent chance of a rate hike by year-end. The U.S. central bank meets next on March 15-16.
Shares of Herbalife fell 6.9 percent after the company said it had overstated growth in the number of new members in some instances due to a database error.
Kroger dropped 7.7 percent after the largest U.S. supermarket operator's quarterly sales missed estimates.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,134 to 862. On the Nasdaq, 1,729 issues rose and 1,014 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 11 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 19 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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