Dec. 7, 2012 at 9:52 AM ET
Stocks struggled for direction in a narrow range Friday even after Speaker John Boehner's threw cold water on the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and as investors continued to digest through a pair of mixed economic reports.
Meanwhile, Apple fell more than 2 percent. The stock is on pace to logging its worst week since July 2010 and is closing in on a technical area known as the "death cross" – where its 50-day moving average falls below the 200 day moving average.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average held small gains, led by JPMorgan and Caterpillar, after finishing higher for the second session. Verizon led the blue-chip laggards.
The S&P 500 bobbed in and out of the red, while the Nasdaq slipped. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, slipped near 16.
Among key S&P sectors, consumer staples gained, while telecoms edged lower.
In a press conference, Boehner said that he has no progress to report on the fiscal cliff budget negotiations and added President Obama is "slow-walking" walking the economy toward the edge of the fiscal cliff.
The monthly non-farm payrolls rose by a surprising 146,000, with the unemployment falling sharply to 7.7 in November, according to the Labor Department. The report blew past expectations for a gain of 93,000 and unemployment rate holding steady at 7.9 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
The Labor Department said the storm's effects might be more accurately gauged in next months' report. Meanwhile, participation rate fell to 63.6 percent, falling further from 30-year lows. And October's employment gains were also lowered through revisions. The U.S. added 171,000 jobs in October.
"There's a lot of skepticism regarding this report—the Labor Department said there was no impact from Sandy, but the report states that 369,000 people were unable to work because of the storm and that gives people pause," said John Canally, Investment Strategist and Economist for LPL Financial. "The market's largely ignoring this, but we'll learn a lot more from this in two weeks when the BLS state unemployment report is released."
Meanwhile, the consumer sentiment index fell to 74.5 from 82.7 in a preliminary December according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey. Economists in a Reuters survey expected a reading of 82.4.
Netflix traded higher even after the online movie-streaming company disclosed that CEO Reed Hastings received a Wells Notice from the SEC related to a blog post he wrote on Facebook in July. Meanwhile, Hastings said he is optimistic the action can be "cleared up quickly."
Jefferies announced it is moving its first-quarter dividend payment to December, while D.R. Horton accelerated all of its 2013 dividend payments into 2012. Late Thursday, publishing company McGraw-Hill and hospital operator HCA became the latest companies to declare special dividends. So far, more than 170 companies have accelerated or announced special dividends in the fourth quarter.
European shares reversed their losses following the jobs report, but gains were limited after Germany's central bank cut its growth outlook for the economy next year and amid worries about political uncertainty in Italy.