Stocks closed with slight losses Thursday, recovering from deeper slide earlier in the day. Investors maneuvered to make the most of mixed quarterly results and the impact of the government's monthly jobs report, out Friday.

At the close on Wall Street, The Dow Jones industrial average had fallen 4.2 points, about 0.02 percent, to 17,860.4. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had lost 2.4 points, about 0.1 percent, to nearly 2,100, and the Nasdaq composite gave up 14.7 points, about 0.3 percent, to 5,127.4.

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CRUDE ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude futures fell 94 cents to $45.38 at barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slumped $1.58, or 3.3 percent, to close at $46.32 a barrel on Wednesday as Yellen's comments pushed up the dollar.

FED WATCH: Testifying before a committee of the U.S. Congress, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen described the U.S. economy as "performing well" and said an interest rate hike in December was a "live possibility" if the economy stays on track. Her view was echoed by another Fed policymaker later in the day. Yellen did stress that no decision has been made yet and a move in December will depend on how the economy fares between now and then.

Yellen's comments set the stage for Friday's jobs report. Investors expect that U.S. employers added 185,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1 percent.

ANALYST'S OPINION: "Even with weak data, Fed rhetoric increasingly points toward a December liftoff," DBS Group Research said in a daily commentary. The report said it was only a week ago when markets lowered the odds of a December rate hike due to poor data. "Markets have had to adjust expectations rapidly."