Stocks close up slightly after upbeat jobs data

/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks struggled to end barely higher Friday after a blowout report on job creation failed to extend a powerful rally this week driven by the Federal Reserve's latest plan to pump up the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average waffled between gains and losses for much of the day before ending with a gain of just 9 points. Earlier in the week the Dow reached its highest level since September 2008, just before the peak of the financial crisis, over enthusiasm about the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program announced Wednesday.

Stocks rapidly lost momentum Friday, despite a report from the Labor Department showing that employers added 151,000 jobs last month, the first gain since May and far more than analysts had anticipated.

A poor profit report made Kraft Foods Inc. one of the worst-performing members of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow average. The huge food company said its net income fell more than 8 percent last quarter as it spent more to promote its brands. Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. rose sharply, bringing other financial shares along with them, on news that big banks may soon be able to raise their dividends.

The Dow closed up 9.24, or 0.1 percent, at 11,444.08. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 4.79, or 0.4 percent, to 1,225.85, and the Nasdaq composite index edged up 1.64, or 0.1 percent, to 2,578.98.

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The Dow gained 326 points this week, or 2.9 percent, its fourth weekly gain out of the past five. The S&P is up 3.6 percent for the week and the Nasdaq rose 2.9 percent.

Treasury yields inched higher as investors trimmed their holdings of defensive investments. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 2.53 percent from 2.47 percent late Thursday. The dollar rose against other currencies, and commodity prices mainly rose.

Stocks had been rallying this week as investors cheered the long-anticipated economic stimulus program from the Fed. The details of the plan were slightly more than many were expecting, and helped lead the Dow to a 220-point charge on Thursday.

The October payrolls gain was tempered by news that the national unemployment rate, which is measured by a separate survey of households, remained stuck at 9.6 percent for the third straight month. The economy needs to consistently add at least 100,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with the expansion of the population. In September, employers cut 95,000 jobs.

Unemployment has remained stubbornly high despite the official end of the recession in June of 2009 and other bright spots in the economy, including gains in manufacturing and retail spending. That high jobless rate has helped delay a rebound in the housing market and frustrated investors, everyday Americans and policymakers in Washington.

Speaking shortly after the jobs report came out, President Barack Obama said he was "open to any idea, any proposal" to help jump-start the economy. Obama, whose Democratic party lost the House of Representatives in mid-term elections on Tuesday, said the country can't afford two more years of partisan gridlock in Washington.

In other corporate news, Starbucks Corp. jumped 3.8 percent after reporting late Thursday that its earnings doubled last quarter. The world's largest coffee chain also raised its target for profits next year. Kraft fell 2.2 percent after its disappointing earnings report.

Fluor Corp. jumped 9.5 percent after the engineering and construction company said revenue and new awards rose. Coventry Health Care Inc. rose 5.9 percent after the health insurer said its income more than doubled in the last quarter and raised its full-year profit forecast.

Rising stocks outpaced falling ones on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 5.7 billion shares.

Overseas markets were mostly higher. Britain's FT-SE edged up 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent and France's CAC-40 was flat.

Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.9 percent after that country's central bank outlined details of its own program to stimulate its economy by buying up debt securities.