Wall Street was mixed as a report showing that more Americans than expected filed for jobless benefits ahead of the government's monthly jobs data offset gains in the price of oil.

Wall Street seesawed. In 2.45pm New York trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.01 per cent lower, while the Nasdaq Composite Index inched 0.03 per cent lower. In 2.30pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.08 per cent.

A Labor Department report showed that initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000 for the week ended April 30.

On Friday a report is expected to show US companies added 200,000 workers to their payrolls in April, according to a Bloomberg poll.


"We are assuming the move in claims is largely technical," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, told Reuters. "By all accounts, businesses cannot find the skilled labour they need."

The Federal Reserve is seen as increasingly unlikely to lift its target interest rate soon as headwinds in the global economy have curbed growth in the US. However, the greenback strengthened as two Fed officials, James Bullard and John Williams, offered upbeat comments on the US jobs market and suggested a rate hike in June is not off the table.

"We continue to have the rhetoric of the Fed saying they want to have rates higher," Craig Collins, managing director of rates trading at Bank of Montreal in London, told Bloomberg. "Regardless of what they say, the market is saying the likelihood of them going in the very near-term is diminished. We need an outlying number tomorrow for payrolls for it to have too much consequence on the market."

In the Dow, declines in shares of Merck and those of Caterpillar, last 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent weaker respectively, offset gains in shares of Walt Disney and those of IBM, last 1.2 per cent and 1 per cent higher respectively.

Shares of Kraft Heinz climbed, last up 3.7 per cent as of 3.02pm in New York after earlier touching a record high, after it posted quarterly profit that bettered analysts' expectations.

Shares of Fitbit, however, sank, trading 17.1 per cent lower, after the maker of wearable fitness devices and trackers reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings but offered a disappointing outlook for the current quarter.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.3 per cent gain from the previous close, closing higher for the first time in five days. Better-than-expected earnings from BT Group bolstered sentiment. The UK's FTSE 100 index gained 0.1 per cent, while Germany's DAX index rose 0.2 per cent. France's CAC 40 index slipped 0.1 per cent.

Oil pared some of its earlier gains, as investors reassessed the perceived threats to supply in Canada and Libya.

"The Canadian blaze, horrific as it is, is far south of the real producing fields to cause real lasting damage to production there," John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital, told Reuters. "The Libyan barrels weren't really on the market anyway."