US stocks flat after mixed economic data

U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday, as a mixed bag of retail sales reports and unemployment claims data failed to push stocks in either direction.

Investors may be putting off big decisions until Friday, when a major report on January hiring and unemployment is due.

They got a little preview of the jobs picture on Thursday, when the Labor Department reported that weekly unemployment applications fell by 12,000, to a seasonally-adjusted 367,000. A four-week moving average for those claims fell to 375,750, their lowest level since June 2008.

January retail sales were lukewarm. Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. came in better than expected. Macy’s and Dillard’s were among stores falling short. Costco shares rose 2.5 percent, and Target shares rose 1.1 percent.

About 30 minutes after trading opened, the Dow Jones industrial average was unchanged. The broader S&P 500 index rose 2 points to 1,326. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points to 2,858.

Stocks in Europe were flat or up slightly. Britain’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares was unchanged at 5,792. Germany’s DAX was 0.3 percent higher at 6,634 and the CAC-40 in France was 0.3 percent higher at 3,378.

The euro was also subdued after recent gains, trading slightly lower at $1.314.