NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equities rose modestly on Thursday in choppy trading and as investors continued to examine the depths of China's slowdown and search for clarity on the timing of an interest rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Wall Street inched up as economic data on the labor market and manufacturing gave mixed messages on the state of the U.S. economy, ahead of a key payrolls report on Friday that may provide clues for when the Fed will hike rates.
"Investors are holding their breath for tomorrow's number and we have earnings next week," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
"Given the weight of the news we're going to see tomorrow and the importance of what we're going to hear next week, most investors are going to take a wait-and-see attitude to the market."
The Purchasing Managers' Index indicated China's manufacturing shrank again in September, suggesting the world's second-largest economy is still cooling more rapidly than expected a few months ago, but kept fears of a hard landing for the world's second-largest economy at bay.
China's markets will be closed until Oct. 8 for the National Golden Week holidays.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 12.69 points, or 0.08 percent, to 16,272.01, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 3.79 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,923.82 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 6.92 points, or 0.15 percent, to 4,627.08.
The FTSEuroFirst 300 index .FTEU3 in Europe slipped 0.4 percent, while MSCI's all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS gained 0.33 percent on the heels of its worst quarter in four years.
Europe pared earlier gains and turned negative after weaker euro zone manufacturing growth, with phone stocks leading the way after a capital raising move at Altice (ATCA.AS) to fund a U.S. acquisition.
Glencore shares ended down 0.6 percent in London despite the company's assurances that its debt-cutting plans remain on track and a decision by board member and legendary banker John Mack to buy $600,000 worth of stock.
The PMIs in Europe came a day after official data showed consumer prices fell again in September, adding to pressure on the European Central Bank to expand its stimulus program, already set at more than 1 trillion euros.
In currency markets, the dollar .DXY dipped 0.2 percent to 96.176 in the wake of the U.S. manufacturing data.
Commodities markets also pulled back after showing brief signs of stabilizing. The Thomson Reuters Jefferies CRB Index .TRJCRB of 19 commodity prices was off 0.7 percent at 192.51 after reaching a high of 195.48.
U.S. crude CLc1 settled down 35 cents at $44.74 a barrel after an early climb of nearly 4 percent as worries about potential damage to oil installations from a hurricane headed for the U.S. East Coast faded. Brent crude LCOc1 settled down 1.4 percent at $47.69 a barrel after climbing as high as $49.84.
Copper CMCU3 also gave up early gains as optimism over the China data faded, but held near two-week highs, which analysts expected the metal to once again test.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange lost 1.3 percent at $5,095.15 a tonne after hitting two-week highs of $5,230.
Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski