Stocks closed little changed Thursday, erasing an early day rally of nearly 200 points for the Dow Jones industrial average, as optimism over European Central Bank stimulus faded before the U.S. monthly job report Friday.

At the close on Wall Street, Dow Jones industrial average gained 23.4 points, about 0.1 percent, to 16,347.8. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 2.3 points, about 0.1 percent to 1,951.1. The Nasdaq composite slipped 16.5 points, about 0.4 percent, to 4,733.5.

CRUDE ENERGY. About the same time, the price of U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 61 cents at $46.86 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

MONTHLY JOBS REPORT. A report Friday of a healthy job gain would provide one of the final pieces of evidence the Fed needs to start raising interest rates from record lows on Sept. 17, which many economists expect it to do. It would also send a reassuring signal that global stock-market turmoil and China's slowdown have yet to seriously jar the U.S. economy. Analysts have forecast that employers produced a healthy increase of 220,000 jobs last month, according to data provider FactSet. Such a gain would extend a hiring streak that has added an average of 243,000 jobs a month for the past 12 months. Economists have predicted that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.2 percent from 5.3 percent in July.

STIMULUS IN EUROPE. The European Central Bank announced Thursday that it has revamped its stimulus program. ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank expanded the scope of its monetary stimulus while lowering its forecast for euro-area economic expansion amid a slowdown in demand from emerging markets.

ANALYST'S VIEW. "There's going to be caution not only going into the jobs report but into the long weekend," said Tim Ghriskey, who helps oversee $1.5 billion including developing-nation stocks as managing director and chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management. "Draghi threw a degree of caution on the markets, but now people are waiting for tomorrow, absolutely."

UNEMPLOYMENT DATA. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that filings for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast to an eight-week high, representing a pause in a trend of more muted firings. Jobless claims increased by 12,000 to 282,000 in the week ended Aug. 29, the report showed.

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Reports from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press were used in this story.