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updated: 9/7/2012 4:15 PM

U.S. stocks mostly flat after weak jobs report

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  • Trader John Santiago, left, works Friday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

      Trader John Santiago, left, works Friday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The stock market followed one of its most exciting days of the year with a rather dull one Friday. Indexes barely rose following a weak jobs report, which increased hopes that the Federal Reserve would act next week to support the economy.

The gains, while meager, kept major market indexes at their highest levels in more than four years following a massive surge the day before.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.64 points to close at 13,306.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 5.80 points to 1,437.92. The Nasdaq composite barely moved, up 0.61 points at 3,136.42.

The government reported that 96,000 jobs were created in the U.S. last month, fewer than economists had forecast. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, but only because more people gave up looking for work.

Tech bellwether Intel dealt a blow to the market early in the day by cutting its revenue outlook because of weak demand for its semiconductors. Intel fell 90 cents, or nearly 4 percent, to $24.19.

The flat trading for the major indexes Friday followed big gains Thursday. U.S. stocks hit four-year highs after the European Central Bank announced plans to buy an unlimited amount of short-term government bonds from struggling countries in the region such as Italy and Spain. The hope is that the borrowing costs of those countries will fall, making a breakup of the 17-nation euro zone less likely.

Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities, said the weak U.S. jobs report means the Federal Reserve is more likely to announce steps at its meeting next week to keep interest rates low and encourage lending. He thinks the Fed will announce that it will hold benchmark rates near zero through 2015 and, possibly, launch a third round of bond purchases.

"The economy is still struggling, and so it's subject to shocks from overseas," Ricchiuto said. "We're going to get more stimulus from the Fed."

Shortly after jobs numbers were released, analysts from RBS told investors in a note that they see the likelihood of the Fed announcing new bond purchases next week at 90 percent. "We expect the Fed to act in September," they wrote.

Most major markets in Europe rose, too. Benchmark indexes rose 0.7 percent in Germany and 0.3 percent in France. Italy's main index rose 2 percent.

In U.S. trading, materials companies rose 2 percent, the biggest gain among the S&P 500's ten industry sectors. The biggest losers were consumer staples, down 0.8 percent.

Intel followed several other major companies in reducing its profit forecast, including FedEx. The world's second-largest package delivery company lowered its forecast for earnings earlier this week, citing the slowing global economy.

Overall, for every three companies in the S&P 500 telling investors to lower their expectations for future earnings, only one is saying to raise them, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm.

Wall Street analysts estimate earnings for companies in the S&P 500 will fall 1.8 percent in the current quarter, the first drop since the Great Recession, according to S&P Capital IQ. They expect earnings grew 0.9 percent in the April-June quarter, the slowest quarterly pace in three years.

Among stocks making big moves, Pandora Media plunged $2.10, or 17 percent, to $10.47 after the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on a rival service that could hurt the online radio company.

Amazon rose $7.76, or 3 percent, to $259.14. The company unveiled four new Kindle tablet computers Thursday, including ones with larger color screens.

Smith & Wesson rose $1.07, or 12 percent, to $10.07 on surging gun sales and a raised profit forecast. The gun company said it expects earnings for the quarter ending October to climb to as much as twice what analysts had expected.

Dell rose 12 cents, or 1 percent, to $10.64 after announcing it would pay a dividend of eight cents per share in October. It is the computer maker's first cash dividend.

Glencore International fell 14 cents, or nearly 4 percent, to $3.78. The commodities trader said it is prepared to raise its offer to buy mining company Xstrata PLC. Xstrata rose 35 cents, or nearly 4 percent, to $10.14

More than two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was light at 3.7 billion.

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