By STEVE ROTHWELLAP Markets Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A tepid jobs report pushed the stock market slightly lower on Friday.
Indexes edged down after the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in July, curbing optimism that the economy is poised to pick up strength in the second half of the year.
The government reported that 162,000 jobs were created last month, pushing the unemployment rate down to a 4½-year low of 7.4 percent. The number of jobs added was the lowest since March and well below the 183,000 economists polled by FactSet were expecting.
Brad Sorensen, Charles Schwab's director of market and sector research, said the jobs report was "moderately disappointing."
"That tepid growth we've seen, (the economy) not being able to reach escape velocity, continues to be the story," Sorenson said.
Investors have been watching economic reports closely and trying to anticipate when the Federal Reserve will start easing back on its economic stimulus.
The central bank is buying $85 billion of bonds a month to keep long-term interest rates low and encourage borrowing. That stimulus has boosted the stock market to record levels. The Standard & Poor's index closed above 1,700 for the first time Thursday.
The sell-off was muted though, and stock indexes gradually recovered some of their losses by early afternoon. While the jobs report was disappointing, it likely ensured that the Fed would take its time cutting its stimulus, said Doug Lockwood of Hefty Wealth Partners.
"As long as there's this concept that the Fed may still need to be involved and stimulate, that's good for both the bond and the stock market," said Lockwood. "You're seeing the trampoline effect; the market drops and then comes back up."
The S&P 500 was down one point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,705 as of 1:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The index had fallen as much as six points at the start of trading after the jobs report was published.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,605.
Energy stocks fell more than the rest of the market after Chevron became the latest big energy company to disappoint investors with lower earnings. Chevron's profit fell 26 percent to $5.4 billion due to lower oil prices and maintenance work at refineries. The stock fell $2.86, or 2.3 percent, to $123.50, the most of the 30 stocks in the Dow.
Chevron's disappointing earnings followed a pattern set by other oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP this week.
Profit and production at the world's largest oil companies are slumping as the cost of extracting the fuel from remote locations and tightly packed rock is high and rising. It takes years and billions of dollars to get big new production projects up and running.
Among other companies reporting earnings, LinkedIn surged $23.65, or 11 percent, to $236.60 after the professional networking company's results topped analysts' estimates. LinkedIn had its biggest quarterly membership gain since going public in May 2011.
In other trading, the Nasdaq composite rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,678.
The technology-heavy index got a boost from PC maker Dell, which gained 68 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $13.64 after a special committee of the company's board agreed to an increased offer from founder Michael Dell. The deal would add a special dividend for shareholders.
Government bonds rose after the tepid jobs report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which falls when the note's price increases, fell to 2.62 percent from 2.71 percent Thursday. Bonds were regaining some lost ground after a sell-off Thursday prompted by a collection of reports suggesting the economy is improving.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is 1 percentage point higher than it was May 3, when it hit a low for the year of 1.63 percent.
Volatility is likely to increase in the bond market in coming months as the Federal Reserve begins to wind down its stimulus program, said Ron Florance, managing director of investment strategy for Wells Fargo Private Bank.
Investors "are used to having stability in their bonds and volatility in their stocks," Florance said. "In the next 18 months it could be exactly the opposite, with stability in the stock market and volatility in the bond market."
In commodities trading, the price of oil fell $1.08, or 1 percent, to $106.84 a barrel. Gold rose $1.50, or 0.1 percent, to $1,312.70 an ounce.
The dollar fell against the euro and the Japanese yen.
Among other stocks making big moves:
- Viacom surged $4.28, or 5.8 percent, to $78.64 after the media company said its income rose 20 percent in the latest quarter, boosted by affiliate fee revenue its cable TV channels and higher advertising revenue. Viacom also increased its stock buyback program to $20 billion from $10 billion.
- American International Group, the insurer that was bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, rose $1.30, or 2.8 percent, to $48.37 after the company said late Thursday that its profit grew 17 percent in the second quarter. AIG also announced its first dividend since 2008, when it nearly collapsed, and said its board approved a $1 billion stock buyback plan.
- Weight Watchers International plunged $8.53, or 18 percent, to $38.49 after the company reported late Thursday that its second-quarter net income fell 16 percent as the company booked costs related to the early extinguishment of debt. The company also named a new CEO and said recruitment trends are weak.
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