Global markets were under pressure after data showed a drop in producer prices and car sales in China and slowing capital spending in Japan.
Adding to the gloom, influential fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management told CNBC that corporate earnings may not rise as much as expected and he was not overly bullish on stocks next year.
“Investors are in wait-and-see mode before the Fed meeting and nobody is going to take big bets before that,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
“We also need to see more positive government action from China. They have all these levers to pull which they aren’t even as data gets more negative.”
Global financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks by fears that China’s slowdown could be a drag on sluggish global growth, prompting some investors to bet that the U.S. central bank will delay a rate hike until the end of the year.
At 9:40 a.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 29.33 points, or 0.18 percent, at 16,282.9, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 2.98 points, or 0.15 percent, at 1,945.02 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 13.84 points, or 0.29 percent, at 4,770.37.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher with the energy index’s .SPNY 0.79 percent rise leading the advancers. Apple’s (AAPL.O) 0.8 percent rise was the biggest boost on the three major indexes.
Data released on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting a moderation in job growth in August was an aberration. Initial claims fell by 6,000 to 275,000.
Palo Alto Networks (PANW.N) was up 4.3 percent at $172.36 after the cyber security company reported its strongest revenue growth in 10 quarters and forecast better-than-expected growth in the current quarter.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD.N) fell 16.4 percent to $14.83, a day after the doughnut chain cut its 2016 profit forecast.
Lululemon Athletica (LULU.O) was down 7.6 percent at $59.37 after the yogawear retailer’s gross margins continue to be under pressure as it spends more on product development and sourcing.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,387 to 1,191. On the Nasdaq, 1,180 issues rose and 997 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and 3 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 3 new highs and 20 new lows.