S&P, Dow little changed, Charter boosts Nasdaq

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The S&P 500 and the Dow were little changed on Thursday morning as investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of a set of economic data, including Friday's jobs report, while a rise in Charter Communications boosted the Nasdaq.

The stress on data has become especially apparent after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said last week that solid performance in the laborr market has strengthened the case for an interest rate hike.

Investors will assess Friday's monthly nonfarm payrolls numbers to see whether robust hiring from June continued through August. A Reuters survey of economists shows about 180,000 jobs were likely added in the month.

While the markets seem to be getting comfortable with the prospects of higher rates, the biggest question on everybody's mind is the timing of the next increase.

A host of Fed officials have hinted that a rise could come as early as this month, but analysts have said the Fed would likely wait until December, given inflation rates running below its 2 per cent target and the upcoming US presidential elections in November.

Traders have priced in a 30 per cent chance of a hike when the Fed meets on Sept 20-21. The odds rise to 57.2 per cent for December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Charter Communications rose 3.4 per cent to US$265.87, after the S&P Dow Jones Indices said the cable services company is set to join the S&P 500 index. The stock provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq, followed by a 0.3 percent rise in Microsoft .

At 9:42 a.m. ET (9:42 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 14.52 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 18,415.4. The S&P 500 was up 1.33 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 2,172.28. The Nasdaq Composite was up 13.39 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 5,226.61.

Five of the 10 major S&P 500 indexes were higher, led by a 0.3 per cent rise in the consumer discretionary sector.