US stocks fall sharply on fears of pending rate hikes; Dow below 18K

U.S. stocks closed down more than 1 percent on Friday as investors weighed a jobs report that indicated an interest rate hike could come sooner rather than later.

"Good news is bad news again," said Gina Martin Adams at Wells Fargo. Adams said there was a quick jump in the Fed Funds futures this morning. "The percentage chance for a June hike went from 18 percent to 25 percent," she said.

February's nonfarm jobs report showed a gain of 295,000, above expectations of 240,000 in February, down from 257,000 in January. The unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, while hourly wages ticked up 0.1 percent, below consensus and off the surprise 0.5 percent gain in January.

"I think a 5.5 percent unemployment rate clinches a June rate hike. which means 'patient' comes out in a week and a half," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

The report sent turbulence into bond markets, with the U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield rising to 2.25 percent and the 2-year surging to 0.73 percent on increased anticipation of an interest rate hike.

In reaction to rates, the Dow Utilities fell below its 200-day moving average for the first time since January 2014. In the S&P 500, utilities fell more than 3 percent as the greatest laggard.

Read MoreSurge! Job creation jumps despite tough winter

The Dow Jones industrial average closed below 18,000 for the first time since February 19. The index had its worst day in a over a month, briefly falling more than 300 points, down more than 1.5 percent, with Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble the greatest decliners

All three major indices closed down nearly 2 percent for the week, despite setting records on Monday, when the Nasdaq closed above the psychologically important 5,000 level for the first time since March 2000.

"The market is fearful of the Fed changing its line," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "I think today is a bit of an overreaction to the jobs data."

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The U.S. dollar rose more than 1 percent against major world currencies. On the other hand, the euro breached $1.09 after the report, extending Thursday's decline from quantitative easing news in the euro zone.

"I don't really think much of it. I would have liked to see something more dramatic in one direction or another. I think the economy is flattening out. People can look at it and pull anything they want. Labor force participation seems stuck," said Gary Chaison, professor at industrial relations at Clark University.

However, he said "I think this will give some encouragement to the Fed to act next month (which is thinking) we have to get here. We have to jump start the system."

John Canally, strategist and economist at LPL Financial, said the Fed wouldn't hike rates until wage gains strengthened.

"It's wages they're concerned about. Average hourly earnings can't get lift off here," he said. "The labor market is tightening but it's not tightening enough to push average hourly earnings."

Read MoreWhy the Dow Jones Industrial Average matters

Apple is expected to join the Dow on March 18, replacing AT&T. Shares of the iPhone maker held higher but below records, while the wireless services provider closed down 1.5 percent.

It's "good news," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. "The Dow should react well, but move a lot different than we're used to."

"It is a major change. It has been discussed everywhere," said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Obviously it's going to be a positive item. It represents the market that we're trying to imitate better than AT&T."

Apple will hold a special event on Monday, during which analysts expect more details on the Watch.

The U.S. trade deficit for January fell 8.3 percent to $41.8 billion.

In corporate news, Staples reported a 3.7 percent fall in quarterly sales, as a strong dollar and waning demand for computers and accessories hurt profits.

The office supply retailer posted a net loss attributable to the company of $260.4 million, including a pre-tax charge of $410 million as a result of impairment of goodwill in its international operations. Shares in the firm dipped in pre-market trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 278.94 points, or 1.54 percent, at 17,856.78, with Johnson & Johnson leading all blue chips lower.

The S&P 500 closed down 29.78 points, or 1.42 percent, at 2,071.26, with utilities down 3 percent to lead all 10 sectors lower.

The Nasdaq traded down 55.4 points, or 1.11 percent, at 4,927.37.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 15.

Five stocks declined for every advancer on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 903 million and a composite volume of 3.8 billion in the close.

High-frequency trades accounted for 47.5 percent of an average daily trade volume of 6.3 billion shares traded in March to date, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trade in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion shares traded daily were high-frequency trade.

Crude oil futures settled down $1.15, or 2.27 percent, at $49.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold settled down $31.90 to $1,164.30 an ounce.

European equities ended mixed on Friday after the U.S. jobs report.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank announced will start its 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) bond-buying program on Monday, March 9, with expectations to end in September 2016, President Mario Draghi said during a press conference

Draghi also raised regional growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016 to 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

Read MoreDon't be too patient on rate hikes: Fed's Williams

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank president Richard Fisher said on Friday that recent strong job growth had put the U.S. close to full employment but that it was not quite there yet, Reuters reported.

Wages remain "tame," Fisher told Reuters after a speech at the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. His address was largely focused on the Texas economy, but afterwards he said the labor market is clearly tightening.

President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, John Williams, said Thursday he believed the federal funds rate should be lifted before inflation reached the Fed's preferred 2 percent goal.

As of its close on Thursday, the S&P 500 was within 1.5 standard deviations of its 50-moving day average. Since 1980 the index has been in this position 8.31 percent of all trading days, according to quantitative analytics tool Kensho.The probability of the index moving lower in the days following is 54.8 percent and the probability of it moving higher is 45.2 percent.

As of its Thursday close, the Dow Jones industrial average was within 1.5 standard deviations of its 50-moving day average. Since 1981 the index has been in this position 8.36 percent of all trading days, according to Kensho. The probability of the index moving lower in the days following is 60.5 percent and the probability of it moving higher is 39.5 percent.

The Nasdaq Composite was within 2 standard deviations of its 50-day moving average, as of its close on Thursday. Since 1980 the index has been in this position for 9.28 percent of all trading days, Kensho data showed. The probability of the index moving lower in the days following is 75.7 percent and the probability of it moving higher is 24.3 percent.

Disclosure: CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Kensho.

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