S&P 500 ends at another record after strong jobs data

NEW YORK - US stocks finished mostly higher on Friday, with the S&P 500 closing at a record after more jobs than expected were created in February and January's figure was revised higher.

The S&P 500 ended at a record closing high for the second day in a row. Friday's milestone also was the S&P 500's fifth record closing high in the past seven sessions.

But the overall sentiment was cautious and trading was volatile throughout the session as investors adjusted their positions ahead of the weekend and kept a close eye on the simmering crisis in Ukraine.

The S&P 500 had climbed to an intraday record of 1,883.57 shortly after the opening bell, lifted by the Labor Department's report showing that US employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls in February. Economists had expected a gain of 149,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.

"It seems that the decent February employment report, although a step in the right direction, has resolved little," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.

"Stocks are suffering from some inevitable ebbing following the latest strong flow. That, in turn, has prompted further defensive demand for the protection afforded by options."

The CBOE Volatility Index or the VIX , Wall Street's fear gauge, fell 0.7 per cent to close at 14.11. But VIX April and May futures were up at 15.83 and 16.45, respectively.

The intermediate-term picture of the stock market remains bullish, but "the overbought conditions are building and a sharp, but short-lived correction can be expected at any time," said Larry McMillan, president of McMillan Analysis Corp, in a note to clients.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 30.83 points or 0.19 per cent, to end at 16,452.72. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 1.01 points or 0.05 per cent, to finish at 1,878.04. But the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 15.903 points or 0.37 per cent, to close at 4,336.223.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 ended higher for the second straight week, with the Dow up 0.8 per cent and the S&P 500 up 1 per cent. The Nasdaq recorded its fifth straight weekly advance, up 0.7 per cent.

Boeing Co shares fell 1 per cent in extended-hours trading following news that "hairline cracks" had been discovered in the wings of 787 Dreamliner jets still in production. Boeing shares had ended the regular session at $128.54, down 0.3 per cent.

Nike Inc shares, up 1.6 per cent at $79.46, and Exxon Mobil, up 1.3 per cent at $94.99, ranked as the Dow's top gainers and helped the blue-chip average outperform the broader market.

Geopolitical concerns increased when Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed a warning from US President Barack Obama over Moscow's military intervention in Crimea, saying Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.

After investors piled into gold, crude and grains on Monday as tensions escalated over Crimea, they have cautiously returned to stocks around the world. A gauge of global equities .MIWD00000PUS traded near a six-year high.

Shares of FireEye Inc dropped 9.5 per cent to $81.04 after the network security company priced a follow-on public offering. The company sold 14 million shares of its common stock at $82 per share.

Safeway Inc, the second-largest US mainstream grocery store operator, said Thursday that private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management would acquire the company in a deal valued at about $9.4 billion. Safeway shares fell 2.2 per cent to $38.60.

Skullcandy Inc shares shot up 24.2 per cent to $9.23 after the headphone maker posted fourth-quarter earnings and provided an outlook for the first quarter and full year.

Big Lots Inc shares surged 23 per cent to $35.97 after the close-outs retailer reported a better-than-expected adjusted profit for the holiday quarter.

About 6.9 billion shares traded on US exchanges, according to data from BATS Global Markets, slightly below the daily average of about 7 billion in the past month.

Decliners outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by 1,751 to 1,247. On the Nasdaq, a total of 1,320 stocks fell, while 1,264 rose.