Wall Street traded steady to higher ahead of the US jobs report due on Friday, as investors try to gauge how cautiously the Federal Reserve might approach interest rate increases this year.

A Labor Department report showed that initial jobless claims increased by 11,000 to 276,000 in the week ended March 26. On Wednesday, an ADP Research Institute report showed US private payrolls rose by 200,000 in March, following a revised 205,000 increase the prior month.

"Claims remain at a level that is consistent with low rates of involuntary job separation and this report, similar to other labour market-related releases for March, points to no significant shift in labour market trends at the end of the first quarter," John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York, told Reuters.

Friday's report is expected to show nonfarm payrolls probably rose by 205,000 in March, after a gain of 242,000 in February, while the unemployment rate is expected to remain at an eight-year low of 4.9 per cent.


In 1.22pm New York trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.11 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.29 per cent. In 1.06pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index inched 0.08 per cent higher.

"There's a lot of anticipation around tomorrow's jobs data," Tim Ghriskey, managing director and chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management in New York, told Bloomberg. "That's keeping investors from either taking new positions or selling existing ones, at least so far. Traders often take a wait-and-see approach if they've already positioned themselves."

The Dow rose, as gains in shares of IBM and those of American Express, up 2.7 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively in early afternoon trading, outweighed losses in shares of Boeing and those of Intel, down 1 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

Shares of McDonald's rose, last up 0.2 per cent, after the company said it plans to add more than 1,500 restaurants in China, Hong Kong and South Korea over the next five years.

"Asia represents a significant area of opportunity for McDonald's to blend our global quality standards with local insights and expertise from partners who share our vision and values," said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's CEO. "This will allow McDonald's to accelerate our growth and scale faster across diverse markets placing us closer to our customers and the communities we serve."

China, Hong Kong and Korea collectively represent more than 2,800 restaurant locations, the majority of which are currently company-owned, McDonald's said.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 1.1 per cent slide from the previous close. The index has shed 7.7 per cent this quarter, according to Bloomberg.

On Thursday, the UK's FTSE 100 Index fell 0.5 per cent, Germany's DAX Index slid 0.8 per cent, while France's CAC 40 Index dropped 1.3 per cent.