Split results for stocks on Syria strike and weak jobs gains

NEW YORK (AP) — After a shaky start, stocks are heading higher Friday afternoon as investors buy high-dividend stocks like real estate investment trusts and household goods makers. Stocks wavered earlier following a somewhat disappointing jobs report and U.S. missile strikes against Syria. Defense contractors stocks are climbing and the price of oil is also up.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,360 as of 1:40 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,703. The Nasdaq composite added 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,885. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks rose 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,365.

The S&P 500 fell as much as 6 points earlier in the day and has repeatedly switched between gains and losses.

HIRING: The government said employers added 98,000 jobs in March, which weaker than the last few months and about half as many as analysts had predicted. But Wall Street wasn’t much troubled by the report, as one-time factors including snowstorms may have temporarily slowed hiring. The unemployment rate also fell to 4.5 percent, its lowest level since 2007, as more people found work.

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AIRSTRIKES: Overnight, the U.S. 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.

The increased geopolitical uncertainty gave something of a boost to defense contractor stocks. Raytheon added $2.43, or 1.6 percent, to $153.18 and Lockheed Martin rose $3.94, or 1.5 percent, to $271.05. L3 Technologies climbed $2.86, or 1.8 percent, to $165.76.

THE QUOTE: Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said he is not surprised the stock market isn’t having a strong reaction to the events of the last 24 hours because they won’t really alter investors’ views of the U.S. economy.

“It was not a bad report, it was just another in a long, long, long line of not bad, not great reports,” he said of the jobs report. He said the economy probably won’t grow much faster over the next few years because the Federal Reserve plans to keep raising interest rates, which makes borrowing more expensive and keeps inflation at bay.

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SEEKING SAFETY: Earlier the price of gold jumped to its highest price since right after the presidential election in November, and bond prices climbed. That changed Friday afternoon, as gold was up only 0.6 percent at $1,260.60 an ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which earlier slipped to 2.30 percent, rose to 2.36 percent. It finished at 2.34 percent Thursday.

Phone companies, real estate investment trusts and household goods makers all traded higher. Wal-Mart gained $1.38, or 1.9 percent, to $72.81 and Prologis rose 87 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $53.93.

ENERGY: The military strikes in the Middle East, which produces a large chunk of the world’s oil, sent crude prices higher. U.S. oil added 44 cents to $52.14 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose 29 cents to $55.18 a barrel in London.

FOX ROCKED: Twenty-First Century Fox declined for the fifth day in a row as advertisers continued to pull their ads from “The O’Reilly Factor.” Less than a week ago, the New York Times reported that Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, the network’s most popular prime-time host, have paid $13 million to five women to settle allegations of sexual misconduct. Kantar Media says the show brought in more than $100 million in advertising revenue in 2016. The stock lost 7 cents to $31.05 and it’s down 4.1 percent this week.

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CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 111.26 yen from 110.78 yen. The euro fell to $1.0591 from $1.0646.

OVERSEAS: In Britain, the FTSE 100 index was 0.6 percent higher and the French CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent. Germany’s DAX hardly budged. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent. The Kospi of South Korea lost 0.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was little changed.


AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay