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U.S. stocks wavered on Friday, with the S&P 500 and Dow industrials setting their loftiest finishes, after data had the U.S. economy producing less-than-expected jobs in October and the unemployment rate declining to a six-year low.
"It's good news, it's not great news," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said of the Labor Department report, which had payrolls increasing by 214,000 last month, less than the 231,000 anticipated, and the jobless rate at 5.8 percent.
"We're at all-time highs, it's really difficult to rally on news, unless it's really good," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
First Solar led losses on the S&P 500, falling almost 11 percent, a day after the maker of solar panels said it would not create a publicly traded yield company to own and operate its own power plants, as rivals including NRG Energy have done. Monster Beverage was the S&P's best performer, with the maker of energy drinks rising 7.9 percent after reporting quarterly profits that topped estimates.
One measure of investor uncertainty, the CBOE Volatility Index, turned lower, off 4 percent, at 13.12. Investors bought into fixed income and recently battered commodities, including gold and oil.
Trading in a 82-point range on either side of neutral, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19.46 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,573.93, with discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores leading blue-chip gains that had the index up 1.1 percent on the week.
After rising to an intraday record, the S&P 500 added nearly a point to 2,031.92, with health care fronting losses and utilities faring best among its 10 major industries. The S&P rose 0.7 percent from the week-ago close.
The Nasdaq fell 5.94 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,632.53, remaining in positive turf for the week.
For every two shares falling, more than three rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 774 million shares traded. Composite volume surpassed 3.6 billion.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the December oil-futures contract climbed 74 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $78.65 a barrel; gold futures for December delivery jumped $27.20, or 2.4 percent, to $1,169.80 an ounce, with the metal halting a seven-day losing streak that had it falling to a four-year low.
The U.S. dollar fell against the currencies of major trading partners and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans dropped 9 basis points to 2.3023 percent.
The October drop in the jobless rate "is not too far from the Fed's year-end 2015 target range of 5.4 percent to 5.6 percent, thus putting the Fed even further behind the ball. Expect a March rate hike," Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at the Lindsey Group.
Hogan had a different take, saying he did not think the jobs report changes the timing of interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve one way or another. "You have to balance the labor-force situation with the other mandate that the Fed has, and that's inflation, so I don't think it pushes us back or moves us forward," said Hogan, who believes the eventual liftoff date for the central bank is likely in the middle of 2015.
"We pretty much got an inline number, the headline was a little lower than consensus, but you'd have to go back quite some time to see a track record like that," said Hogan of the ninth consecutive month in which job creation surpassed 200,000.
The biggest job gains came in retail and food services, which is "not exactly the place you want to see them created, but people spending money at restaurants bodes well for the holiday season; lower gas prices have put more money in people's pockets," said Kinahan.
Next Friday's retail sales report will be key, with Kinahan saying he'll look for a correlation with the jobs report.
"If it doesn't correlate, then we have a real disconnect and that makes this jobs report not nearly as good. If retail sales are good, it makes this a good jobs report and increases optimism for the holidays," he said.
On Thursday, U.S. stocks climbed, lifting the Dow and S&P 500 to records, after upbeat economic reports in the U.S. and assurances from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi that the ECB would adopt further easing measures, if needed.