Stocks capped a wildly volatile trading session little changed as investors digested the latest government jobs report and amid ongoing jitters over Syria. Still, the Dow snapped a four-week losing streak.
Stocks initially opened higher following the nonfarm payrolls report, but quickly tumbled near session lows after Dow Jones quoted Putin as saying that Russia would continue arms sales and aid to Syria, even in the event of an external attack. Major averages eventually rebounded, with the Dow hitting 15,000, as President Obama eased immediate fears over Syria in his latest press conference from the G20 meeting.
However, the rally eventually faded in the final hour of trading. The Dow fluctuated in a wide 220-point range.
"If you came into the day and ask what could possibly roll this market over, Syria would be front and center," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets. "We have to be careful as to how much of a reaction we have, but it's going to move markets around here."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished slightly lower. The Dow was down 148 points at its session low and touched the psychologically-important 15,000 level at its session high.
Among key S&P sectors, utilities gained, while materials slipped.
Earlier President Barack Obama met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg in the midst of their dispute over how to respond to chemical weapons use in Syria.
In a press conference, Obama claimed a growing recognition among foreign leaders that "the world cannot stand idly by" in the face of chemical weapons use in Syria, and said he plans to make his case to the American people in an address Tuesday night.
With Congress showing signs of reluctance to back a resolution authorizing military strikes, Obama refused to say whether he would act if he fails to win that approval.
"It would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate because right now I'm working to get as much support as possible out of Congress," he said.
(Read more: Syria: 'Outrage' from world leaders)
Meanwhile, stocks initially shot higher at the open following a weaker-than-expected jobs report that raised questions over whether the Federal Reserve would delay pulling back on its easy-monetary policy. Nonfarm payrolls increased 169,000 in August, according to the Labor Department, while the unemployment rate dropped to a 4-1/2 year low to 7.3 percent as workers gave up the search for work. Economists polled by Reuters had expected job gains of 180,000 last month.
"Again, we see that good news is bad news and bad news is good news—what we need the markets to be doing is going up because the economy is going up and not because we're going to get more injections," said Lance Roberts, chief strategist at StreetTalk Advisors. "We're dependent on Dr. Bernanke to keep this life support going."
(Read more: 12 jobs where women win on pay)
The closely-watched jobs report provides a crucial piece of evidence for the Fed as it debates the future of its $85 billion per month bond-buying program. Policymakers from the U.S. central bank meet on Sept. 17-18 and had been widely expected to turn down the dial on the purchases they have been making to keep interest rates low and boost growth.
(Read more: Next interest rate hike: Oct. 2014?)
Meanwhile, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said the central bank should begin tapering its monthly bond purchases to around $70 billion per month starting later this month.
U.S. Treasury bond prices rallied, pulling yields back from the edge of two year highs. Benchmark 10-year notes traded at 2.93 percent, after topping 3 percent in after-hours trade, for the first time in over two years.
Among earnings, Smithfield Foods posted quarterly earnings that dropped, hurt by lower exports to key international markets.
Yelp jumped after Deutsche Bank initiated coverage of the consumer-review website with a "buy" rating.
Facebook drifted higher to hit a new 52-week high. The social-networking giant is up more than 60 percent this year and is 4 percent below its record price of $45 reached during its IPO last May.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter:@JeeYeonParkCNBC).