US STOCKS-Wall St flat as quarter ends, jobs report eyed


 * Jobless claims fall less than expected in latest week
 * Views positive about Friday's payrolls data for March
 * Volume expected to be low on quarter's last day
 * Berkshire Class B shares fall after Sokol resignation
 * Indexes: Dow, Nasdaq flat, S&P down 0.1 pct
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
  (Updates with Chicago purchasing managers data)
 By Ryan Vlastelica
 NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little
changed on Thursday, the final day of the quarter, as jobless
claims fell less than expected but didn't change optimism about
Friday's U.S. payrolls report for March.
 The decline to 388,000 in claims for unemployment benefits
last week was less than expected, but the drop still signaled
improvement in the labor market. For details, see
[ID:nN31253973]
 The data also followed an encouraging ADP report on
private-sector jobs and precedes Friday's employment report
from the government.
 "Claims are going in the right direction, and that gives us
hope that we'll see a good employment number tomorrow," said
Jerry Harris, president of asset management at Sterne Agee in
Birmingham, Alabama.
 The week has been marked by some of the year's lowest
volumes as traders opt to ride the quarter's gainers amid
global risks. The S&P 500 is up 5.6 percent in the quarter,
based on Wednesday's close.
 "Today will be quiet as people have already established
their positions in preparation for a report that is expected to
be positive tomorrow," Harris said.
 The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 4.84 points,
or 0.04 percent, at 12,355.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
(.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) was down 0.75 point, or 0.06 percent, at 1,327.51. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 0.98 point, or 0.04
percent, at 2,777.77.
 The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index
of Midwest business activity fell in March to 70.6 from 71.2 in
February. The data was near economists' expectations and stocks
reacted little. [ID:nDZE7DS00A]
 David Sokol, the man widely seen as the leading successor
to Warren Buffett to head up Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
(BRKb.N: Quote, Profile, Research), has resigned after buying 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]
 Berkshire's Class B shares fell 1.8 percent to $83.90.
 The Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said it is
being investigated by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures
Commission for alleged regulatory violations. Shares fell 4.9
percent to $41.41. [ID:nL3E7EV08W]
 (Editing by Kenneth Barry)






US STOCKS-Wall St flat as quarter ends, jobs report eyed