The major averages turned higher after ISM manufacturing for March came in at 51.8, topping expectations and up from February's 49.5 print.
The "ISM number was much better than expected," said Peter Coleman, head trader at Convergex.
"We've been in an uptrend for a while here. I think people ... want to put money to work," he said.
U.S. stocks initially opened lower despite an encouraging March jobs report.
"I think there's a lot of uncertainty about earnings, global growth and the timing of the Fed's next move," Warne said. "While it's been a nice rebound from the uncertainty early this year, markets remain volatile."
WTI hit its lowest level in more than two weeks on renewed oversupply concerns, after reports that Saudi Arabia would not agree to a production freeze unless Iran and other major producers also did so. The weekly oil rig count showed a decline of 10, according to Baker Hughes.
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The decline in oil prices and overnight sell-off in some major overseas stock indexes on disappointing Japanese data initially weighed heavily on U.S. equities in the open. Traders also attributed part of the morning decline in stocks to beginning-of-quarter flows.
"You started out with Japan and Europe overnight and that had us down initially. Also in reaction to this pretty good jobs number, it's not consistent with the testimony (Fed Chair) Janet Yellen gave this week and her dovish tilt. The fact that the Fed is speaking out of both sides of its (mouth) has the market just going off the data," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.
Treasury yields held mixed, with the 30-year a touch lower around 2.60 percent, while the 2-year yield held higher near 0.75 percent and the 10-year yield up around 1.78 percent.
The U.S. dollar index ended flat on the day after attempting gains following the U.S. jobs report. The index fell 1.55 percent for the week, its worst since early February. The index ended lower Thursday for a four-day losing streak and falling 4.1 percent in the first quarter for its worst quarter since 2010.
The euro was near $1.139 and the yen was around 111.6 yen against the greenback.
"There's a lot of confusion in the marketplace (about the Fed)," said John Caruso, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.
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Gold futures for June delivery settled down $12.10 at $1,223.50 an ounce but still eked out a gain of 0.16 percent for the week, its first positive week in four.
Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, a voting member of the FOMC, said Friday afternoon it is appropriate to gradually raise rates, while policy will remain easy for some time as headwinds justify it.
She also said she reduced her rate hike path in March from December, and added the economy has shown considerable resiliency and recent inflation data has been somewhat encouraging.
In other economic news, February construction spending declined 0.5 percent. The final University of Michigan consumer sentiment read for March was 91.0. Earlier, the March U.S. Markit manufacturing PMI came in at 51.5.
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"I think the data is showing this economy is not overly impressive but it's still a nice trajectory," said Rob Eschweiler, global investment specialist at JPMorgan Private Bank.
"The next direction for prices from here is now going to be contingent on the direction of earnings at this point," he said.
Auto sales came in at a 16.57 million annualized rate in March, down from 17.54 million in February, according to Autodata.
General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and other major automakers reported weaker-than-expected U.S. sales for March, hurt by declining demand for sedans and light dealer traffic during the Easter weekend, Reuters said. Shares of GM closed down 3 percent, while Fiat Chrysler ended nearly 4.1 percent lower.
Shares of Tesla soared 3.4 percent in above-average trade volume after CEO Elon Musk said orders for the Model 3 reached 198,000 within 24 hours.
Overseas, stocks were mostly lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 plunged 3.55 percent Friday after the Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan" survey showed the headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment stood at plus 6 in March, missing expectations and down from plus 12 seen three months ago, according to Reuters.
The Shanghai composite closed nearly 0.2 percent higher. China's official PMI came in at 50.2 in March, up from 49.0 the prior month, while the Caixin manufacturing PMI for March rose to 49.7 from 48.0 in February. The official services PMI also rose to 53.8 in March.
European stocks ended lower but off session lows, with the STOXX Europe 600 off slightly more than 1 percent.
"It's a combination of things (weighing on the U.S. market open). Europe and Asia, Japan specifically, has been down here," said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities, noting recent weakness in the U.S. dollar index and the slide in oil as negative factors.
"You're not going to have European equities down (sharply) and U.S. equities not being affected by that," he said.
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The March employment report showed creation of 215,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate edging up to 5.0 percent and average hourly earnings rising seven cents, according to Reuters. The labor force participation rate rose to 63 percent, its highest level since March 2014.
"It was good but it wasn't good enough to stop the slide in the dollar. It's not good enough to change the trend," Klein said.
Dow futures briefly pared losses after the employment report, before falling more than 100 points.