Wall Street nearly flat after tepid jobs report

A sign for Wall St. is shown outside the New York Stock Exchange, on Monday, July 15, 2013 in New York. United States (US) stocks were nearly flat on Friday after data showed the jobless rate fell in July but US hiring slowed. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
A sign for Wall St. is shown outside the New York Stock Exchange, on Monday, July 15, 2013 in New York. United States (US) stocks were nearly flat on Friday after data showed the jobless rate fell in July but US hiring slowed. -- FILE PHOTO: AP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - United States (US) stocks were nearly flat on Friday after data showed the jobless rate fell in July but US hiring slowed.

The Dow and the S&P 500 pulled back from the record closing highs they hit on Thursday, with Chevron, the second-largest US oil company, among the biggest drags on the two indexes. Chevron posted a steeper-than-expected 26 per cent drop in quarterly profit, and its shares fell 1.8 per cent to $124.13.

The jobs report showed non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, below expectations, but the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 per cent, its lowest since December 2008.

The mixed data could make the Federal Reserve more cautious about scaling back its massive economic stimulus.

The tepid report follows a series of better-than-expected data and optimism about strong growth in the second half of the year.

"The employment number clearly was a surprise on the downside," said Mr Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

But, he said, "that the jobs picture has improved is pretty well established, so this may not be the driver that it was before things turned around."

Five of the 10 S&P 500 industry sectors moved lower, led by losses of 1 per cent in the energy index. Shares of Exxon Mobil were down 1.3 per cent at $91.48.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 9.30 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 15,618.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.61 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 1,706.26.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.89 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 3,681.64.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 posted its strongest day in three weeks and closed above the 1,700 level for the first time.

Time Warner Cable fell 1.8 per cent to $115.52 after Bloomberg reported that Cox Communications Inc has held talks about merging with cable provider and rival Charter Communications Inc. Charter added 4.4 per cent to $133.56.

Dell's special committee and a group led by founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell announced a deal that dramatically increases the chances of his US$24.6 billion (S$31.3 billion) buyout going through. Dell shares gained 5.3 per cent to $13.65.

LinkedIn shares jumped 11.1 per cent to $236.35 and several brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after results on Thursday topped expectations.