North American stocks were relatively flat in midday trading on Thursday, pausing after two days of strong gains – which included Wednesday's biggest jump in about a year by the S&P 500.
At noon, the S&P 500 was up 1 point or less than 0.1 per cent, to 1464, after recovering from a slight dip in early trading. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 5 points, to 13,408. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 11 points or 0.1 per cent, to 12,530.
The economic backdrop was mixed. The ADP report on U.S. private sector employment showed gains of 215,000 in December, well above expectations for job gains of 140,000.
The report comes before the much-anticipated official payrolls report from the U.S. Labor Department on Friday morning. Right now, economists are expecting the report to show job gains of 151,000 and a steady unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent.
Meanwhile, U.S. jobless claims for the period ended last week rose to 372,000, up from 350,000 in the previous week.
Within the S&P 500, consumer discretionary stocks and energy stocks rose 0.5 per cent each, and industrials rose 0.3 per cent. Consumer staples fell 0.3 per cent and financials fell 0.2 per cent.
Family Dollar Stores slumped 11.4 per cent after reporting disappointing quarterly results and reducing its outlook.
In Canada, industrials rose 0.2 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.1 per cent. Materials fell 0.5 per cent and financials were relatively unchanged.
Among key commodities, gold fell to $1,681 (U.S.) an ounce, down $8. Crude oil fell to $92.88 a barrel, down 24 cents.
In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.3 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 0.3 per cent.