A midday rally lost momentum and stock indexes ended Friday with losses. Edgy investors were buying high-dividend stocks like real estate investment trusts and household goods makers. Investors were also uncomfortable over a disappointing jobs report and U.S. missile strikes against Syria.
Many investors were buying bonds, gold, and high-dividend stocks as they look for safe havens for their money. The Labor Department said hiring slowed significantly in March.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down nearly 2 points, about 0.08 percent, at 2,355.5. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 6.9 points, about 0.03 percent, to close at 20,656.1. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.1 points, about 0.02 percent, to 5,877.8. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks ended the day up less than a point at 1,364.6.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 63 cents to $52.33 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, gained 39 cents to $55.28 a barrel.
JUST 98,000 JOBS: The government said employers added 98,000 jobs in March, about half as many as analysts had predicted. Hiring dropped off somewhat after a few months of strong job growth that was linked to warm weather that boosted hiring in construction. The monthly job gains in January and February were revised a bit lower as well, which meant that hiring over the last three months continued at about the same pace as 2016. The unemployment rate fell to a 10-year low of 4.5 percent.
BOMBING SYRIA: Overnight, the United States launched a missile attack on a Syrian air force base following a chemical weapons strike blamed on the government of President Bashar Assad earlier in the week. The move was condemned by Russia and Iran.
The U.S. government started shifting its policy on Syria before the close of trading Wednesday, which pushed the VIX, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, higher. At the close Friday, it was up 3.9 percent at 12.9.
SEEKING SAFETY: At the close, the price of gold was up $3.40 at $1,256.70 an ounce. Bond prices stabilized higher. At the close, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was up 1.3 percent at 2.373 percent. Lower bond yields mean lower interest rates and small profits on lending, and that hurt bank stocks.