-- Dow, S&P 500 inch up to intraday records
-- Disney falls after results, Salix plummets
Employers added 214,000 jobs last month, below the 231,000 expected in a Reuters poll of economists, while gains in the previous two months were revised higher. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent, the lowest since July 2008, even as more people entered the labour force.
The payrolls data "was not too hot or too soft, it was actually good for the market," said King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco. He said the day's weakness in the US dollar was pushing oil and metals higher, boosting energy and commodity stocks. "Seasonally, it's a good time for stocks," he said about the upcoming weeks. "Unless we get some sort of geopolitical event like Ukraine vs Russia I expect stocks to be higher."
Walt Disney Co fell 2.6 percent to $89.63 a day after earnings met expectations, though its cable networks were weaker. The stock had closed Thursday at $92, a record high. Health insurers fell after the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to a key part of the Obamacare health law that, if successful, would limit the availability of federal health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.
Shares of hospital operator Tenet Healthcare fell 4.4 percent to $48.91 while Community Health Systems was down 6.8 percent to $47.16. Managed care facilities operator Humana Inc was down 5.9 percent to $131.60 and HCA Holdings fell 3.7 percent to $66.40. Healthcare stocks had been pressured from the opening bell after Salix Pharmaceuticals plummeted 32.5 percent to $93.48 in its biggest-ever daily drop. The company on Thursday slashed its full-year forecast amid swollen drug inventories, an issue that dissuaded Allergan from acquiring the drugmaker, people familiar with the matter said.
First Solar sank 11 percent to $50.19 as the biggest decliner on the S&P 500 the day after the company said it wouldn't spin off its solar power plants into a separate, publicly traded entity as some of its competitors have done. Energy shares on the S&P 500 were the day's strongest performers, rising 1 percent alongside a 0.9 percent jump in light crude oil futures prices. The sector is down 1.2 percent so far this year.
At 2:30 pm EST (1930 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.42 points, or 0.01 percent, to 17,553.05, the S&P 500 lost 0.62 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,030.59 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 11.87 points, or 0.26 percent, to 4,626.60. For the week, the Dow is up 1 percent and the S&P is up 0.7 percent in their third straight week of gains. The Nasdaq is flat on the week.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,832 to 1,219, for a 1.50-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,486 issues fell and 1,160 advanced for a 1.28-to-1 ratio favouring decliners. The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 51 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 95 new highs and 49 new lows.