US STOCKS-Wall St flat as Friday payrolls data eyed

 * Jobless claims fall, views upbeat for Friday's payrolls
 * Volume likely to be low on quarter's last day
 * Berkshire Class B shares fall after Sokol's resignation
 * Dow up 0.03 pct, S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
 (Updates to afternoon)
 By Chuck Mikolajczak
 NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on
Thursday as a modest reading on jobless claims failed to
topple upbeat expectations about Friday's U.S. payrolls report
for March as the quarter quietly draws to a close.
 Initial claims for unemployment benefits last week showed
the trend of labor market improvement remains intact, but at a
slow pace. The data precedes Friday's closely watched monthly
employment report from the U.S. Labor Department -- a large
deviation in either direction from the estimate of 190,000
jobs added to March non-farm payrolls is likely to have a
strong effect on markets. For details, see [ID:nN31253973]
 "Non-farm payrolls tomorrow is big -- 200,000 to 205,000
is probably the level that is being priced in right now," said
 Max Bublitz, chief investment strategist at SCM Advisors in
San Francisco.
 "We all freak out over the first number and kind of ignore
the revisions but the fact is it is a very noisy number, and
it's a little bit of a crapshoot."
 Volume was light again on Thursday, continuing a pattern
for the week, as traders opt to ride the quarter's gainers,
pushing the S&P 500 up 5.7 percent in the quarter. Only 4
billion shares had traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE
Amex and Nasdaq heading into the session's final hours.
 But the benchmark S&P has been unable to hold gains around
1,330, a level that the index has been unable to break through
despite several attempts in the past month.
 "We are bouncing off that 1,332 level, which was kind of a
double off the (March 2009) lows. We've struggled with it at
times and it's been kind of a grind here," Bublitz said.
 The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 4.20 points,
or 0.03 percent, to 12,354.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
(.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) added just 0.87 of a point, or 0.07 percent, to
1,329.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 2.98
points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,779.77.
 Berkshire Hathaway's Class B shares (BRKb.N: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 2.3
percent to $83.53 a day after the resignation of David Sokol,
the man widely seen as the leading successor to Warren Buffett
to run Berkshire. Sokol resigned after Buffett revealed that
Sokol had bought shares in chemical company Lubrizol Corp
(LZ.N: Quote, Profile, Research) before pushing Buffett to acquire it.
 In an interview on CNBC, Sokol said he did nothing wrong
in buying the shares. [ID:nN30189928] [ID:nN31227596]
 Retailers ranked among the worst performers, dragged lower
by Carmax Inc (KMX.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which lost 6 percent to $32.52 after
posting fourth-quarter earnings. The S&P Retail index (.RLX: Quote, Profile, Research)
lost 0.7 percent, while the Morgan Stanley retail index (.MVR: Quote, Profile, Research)
dropped 1.1 percent. [ID:nL3E7EV27F]
 (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)








US STOCKS-Wall St flat as Friday payrolls data eyed