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U.S. Stocks Pull Back On Weaker Than Expected Jobs Data

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After ending the previous two sessions higher, stocks opened higher again on Friday but headed south in the late morning and finished in the red, pulling back from record closing highs.

The major averages finished with mild losses as the Dow shed 133.13 points or 0.46 percent to 28,823.77, while the NASDAQ dipped 24.57 points or 0.27 percent to 9,178.86 and the S&P 500 fell 9.35 points or 0.29 percent to 3,265.35.

The higher open was the result of continued optimism over easing concerns about a conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

But the markets turned lower in late morning after the Labor Department's closely watched non-farm payroll data showed the pace of job growth slowed by more than expected in the month of December.

The report said non-farm payroll employment climbed by 145,000 jobs in December after spiking by a revised 256,000 in November. Economists had expected employment to increase by about 164,000 jobs compared to the jump of 266,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the report said the unemployment rate came in at 3.5 percent in December, unchanged from the previous month and in line with economist estimates.

Gold prices edged higher on Friday after the job report, while a subdued dollar also supported gold's rise. Gold futures for February ended up $5.80, or about 0.4 percent, at $1,560.10 an ounce.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Friday, declining for a fourth successive session, amid easing tensions in the Middle East, after the U.S. decided against military action on Iran. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for February ended down $0.52, or about 0.9 percent, at $59.04 a barrel.

Other Markets

The major European markets failed to hold early gains and ended lower on Friday, as investors made cautious moves at higher levels after the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Iran.

Among the major indices, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended down 0.14 percent, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 both ended lower by 0.09 percent, and Switzerland's SMI edged down 0.11 percent.

Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.3 percent.

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