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Benchmarks closed mostly unchanged on Thursday as investors awaited September’s jobs data. Following encouraging manufacturing and services data and the four-week moving average for initial claims hitting a record low, investors looked for more clues about an impending rate hike in Friday’s job report. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) denied reports that the central bank has considered reducing its bond-purchase volume gradually.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) decreased 0.1%, to close at 18,268.50. The S&P 500 rose 0.1% to close at 2,160.77. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 5,306.85, losing 0.2%. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) increased 4.2% to settle at 13.53. A total of around 6.32 billion shares were traded on Thursday, lower than the last 20-session average of 7.1 billion shares. Decliners outpaced advancing stocks on the NYSE. For 54% stocks that declined, 43% advanced.

What Moved The Benchmarks?

Investors refrained from making big bets ahead of the much-awaited monthly jobs report. Both the ISM Manufacturing and Services Indexes registered gains earlier this week, which raise chances of a rate hike. Also, initial claims settled at its lowest level in nearly 43 years.

Initial claims fell last week by 5,000 to 249,000 and was also lower than the consensus estimate of 256,000. It continued to remain below the key level of 300,000 for 83 straight weeks, its longest stretch since 1970. Moreover, its 4-week moving average declined from 256,000 to 253,500, settling at its lowest level since December 8, 1973.

Further, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said that a report claiming that ECB policymakers have decided to cut back ECB’s bond buying volume in coming months “is not correct.” Constancio also said that the bond-purchase program will continue until the ECB is “satisfied that inflation is truly on the path to” their objective, and “at least until March of next year."

Following this news, markets curbed some of its losses with the S&P 500 managing to eke out gains at the close. The Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) rose 0.8% and was the biggest advancer among the S&P 500 sectors. Key holdings from this sector including, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company ( (DD - Analyst Report) and Dow Chemical Company (DOW - Analyst Report) increased 1.4% and 1.7%, respectively. While Du Pont possess a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), Dow Chemical have Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .

Stocks That Made Headlines Today

Cousins Properties Completes Merger with Parkway

Cousins Properties Incorporated (CUZ - Analyst Report) declared the completion of the previously announced merger with Parkway Properties, Inc. (PKY - Snapshot Report) . ( Read More)

AT&T Ties Up with IBM & Amazon, Boosts Cloud Suite

AT&T Inc. (T - Analyst Report) recently announced its upcoming partnership plans with International Business Machines Corporation (IBM - Analyst Report) and Amazon Web Services Inc., a subsidiary of, Inc. (AMZN - Analyst Report) . ( Read More)

CIT Group to Sell Aircraft Leasing Business, Stock Up 8%

Shares of CIT Group Inc. (CIT - Analyst Report) surged nearly 8% on the announcement of a deal to sell its aircraft leasing business, CIT Commercial Air, to Avolon Holdings Limited for $10 billion. ( Read More)

Is Verizon Planning to Divest Data Centers to Equinix?

According to a recent report by Cowen & Co., Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Analyst Report) is about to sign a deal with Eqinix Inc. (EQIX - Analyst Report) to divest its data center business for a consideration of around $3.5 billion. (Read More)

Yum! Brands Q3 Earnings Meet Estimates; Stock Down

Shares of Yum! Brands (YUM - Analyst Report) declined as its third-quarter earnings remained in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate, but revenues missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. ( Read More)

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