Wall Street closes mixed despite jobs report

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NEW YORK -- Wall Street closed out the week with a mixed performance Friday, showing more stability after last month's plunge but also revealing lingering signs of nervousness despite an upbeat report on employment.

The positive jobs data gave stocks a boost but the gains were eroded by a jump in wholesale inventories and more evidence of subprime mortgage problems. Lending worries were a big factor in the market's plunge.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.5% from 4.6%, U.S. employers added 97,000 nonfarm workers in February, and wages are on the rise, the Labor Department said. But the Commerce Department's report of a 0.7% increase in wholesale inventories in January pointed to a drop in demand and possible economic weakness.

Investors were also uninspired by speeches by Federal Reserve officials in the afternoon. Susan Bies, an outgoing member of the Fed's rate-setting committee, said the economy is strong and job creation is "incredible," but that the troubles with the subprime lending market could escalate. Meanwhile, the Fed's main hawk, Jeffrey Lacker, said that inflation expectations aren't anchored enough.

Strength in the job market did help calm investors who feared that the economy might slow too abruptly, but it didn't erase the skittishness in the market, which last week had its worst week in four years.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.62, or 0.13%, to 12,276.32, after trading in both positive and negative territory over the course of the day.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.96, or 0.07%, at 1,402.85, while the technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index fell 0.18, or 0.01%, to 2,387.55.

Advancing issues held a 3 to 2 advantage over decliners on the New York Stock Exchange.

Treasury bond prices fell sharply, as the jobs report made it more unlikely the Federal Reserve would lower rates. Though the report was slightly weaker than expected, bond investors had been positioned for an even softer number. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note shot up to 4.59% from 4.51% late Thursday.



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