The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were little changed while the Dow was up 0.26 percent in choppy trading on Thursday as oil prices pared earlier gains and investors awaited the monthly jobs report on Friday.
Oil was lower after jumping 7 percent on Wednesday as the dollar weakened after weak U.S. data signalled that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hold off from raising rates this year.
Federal fund futures indicate traders no longer expect a Fed hike this year.
The dollar index .DXY which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, hit 96.25, its lowest level in more than three months.
Data on Thursday showed that weekly jobless claims rose more than expected and non farm productivity fell in the fourth quarter at its fastest pace in more than a year.
New orders for U.S. factory goods also fell in December by the most in a year.
"In the short term, we really need to see a decent payroll number tomorrow and for earnings season to conclude with no major surprises," said Bill Merz, investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
"More importantly, investors need to start feeling as though oil is stabilizing or at least nearing a bottom before the volatility in the market can subside."
At 12:56 p.m. ET (1756 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 42.94 points, or 0.26 percent, at 16,379.6, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 0.6 points, or 0.03 percent, at 1,913.13 and the Nasdaq Composite index .IXIC was down 4.85 points, or 0.11 percent, at 4,499.39.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the consumer staples index's .SPLRCD 0.92 percent loss leading the decliners.
Ralph Lauren (RL.N) and Kohl's (KSS.N) fell about 18 percent after the retailers warned of a tough year ahead. The stocks weighed on other retailers with Macy's (M.N), Target (TGT.N) and J.C. Penney (JCP.N) falling more than 3 percent.
Stocks globally have had a rough start to 2016, hurt by tepid U.S. growth, falling oil prices and concern that the world faces a China-led slowdown. The S&P 500 has fallen 6.4 percent this year.
UBS cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 index .SPX to 2,175 points from 2,275 on Thursday and trimmed its earnings estimate for S&P 500 companies to $119 from $126 on weaker U.S. growth prospects.
Fourth-quarter S&P 500 earnings are expected to have fallen 4.2 percent from a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters data.
GoPro (GPRO.O) fell 8.1 percent to $9.83 after the company forecast current-quarter revenue below analysts' estimates.
Coty (COTY.N) was up 9.9 percent at $27.04 after the perfume maker's quarterly sales beat estimates.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,955 to 1,013. On the Nasdaq, 1,661 issues rose and 1,022 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 10 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and 55 new lows.
(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Don Sebastian)
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Updated Date: Feb 05, 2016 02:15 AM