Wall Street was mixed as investors awaited Friday's nonfarm payrolls report to gauge the timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike.

A Labor Department report showed US initial jobless claims fell to 249,000 last week, the second-lowest level since 1973, underpinning bets the Fed will raise rates soon. Economists polled by Reuters forecast nonfarm payrolls to increase by 175,000.

"There's no question about it, these are good numbers," David Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast in New York, told Bloomberg. "The implication here is that the payrolls trend will remain healthy. The big picture is consistent with the Fed raising rates at some point this year, most likely in December."

In 2.08pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index also inched 0.1 per cent lower. In 1.53pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index eked out a 0.07 per cent gain.


"At the moment, what is driving the US market is a repricing around expectations of near-term Fed action," Bill Merz, investment strategist at US Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told Reuters.

The Dow fell as slides in shares of American Express and those of Wal-Mart, recently down 3.8 percent and 2.6 per cent respectively, outweighed advances in shares of Home Depot and those of Apple, recently up 1.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores dropped after the retailer said it expects "relatively flat" earnings in its next fiscal year as it slows new-store openings to bolster its online business.

For the year ending January 31, 2018, Wal-Mart expects earnings per share to be "relatively flat" from the previous fiscal year's estimated adjusted EPS of between US$4.15 to US$4.35 a share, it said in a statement.

"The company will rely more on comp sales and e-commerce growth to drive the top line and plans to slow new-store openings, while increasing investments in e-commerce, technology, store remodels and other customer initiatives," Wal-Mart said in the statement.

At the moment, what is driving the US market is a repricing around expectations of near-term Fed action.


Meanwhile, shares of Twitter sank, trading 20.2 per cent lower as of 2.03pm in New York, as concern mounted no one wants to buy the social media company after it put itself up for sale last month.

Alphabet's Google does not plan to bid for Twitter, according to technology website Recode. Walt Disney won't make a bid either, Recode reported, while Apple was unlikely to be a suitor.

Meanwhile Salesforce.com might be interested.

"I'm not saying I'm buying it, but I'm not saying I'm not buying it," Salesforce Chief Executive Mark Benioff told the New York Times.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a slide of 0.4 per cent. Germany's DAX Index fell 0.2 per cent, as did France's CAC 40 Index, while the UK's FTSE 100 Index declined 0.5 per cent.