NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell Friday as concern about escalating tension in Ukraine overshadowed data showing payrolls rose the most in two years.
Health-care stocks dropped 0.8 percent, as Merck & Co., Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson lost more than 1.2 percent. LinkedIn declined 8.4 percent after giving a quarterly sales forecast that missed analysts' estimates. Casino stocks rallied as Macau revenue topped forecasts.
The S&P 500 ended regular trading down 0.1 percent to 1,881.14, after rallying 0.4 percent earlier in the session to climb above all- time high of April 2. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 45.98 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,512.89. About
5.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 12 percent below the three-month average.
"The end result is neutral but it's the positive of the jobs numbers being offset by greater concerns about what's going on in the Ukraine," said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in New York, which advises $231 billion in the Wells Fargo Advantage Funds. "There's more activity over there and that has the market a little bit worried. It's something we will have to deal with for a while because I don't see it going away right away."
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting about Ukraine on Friday after the country sent armored vehicles and artillery to retake Slovyansk, defying a demand by Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back troops. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel set a May 25 trigger for possible economic sanctions against Russia.
"On a Friday, people are going to be more inclined to be less long going into a weekend with potential military action happening in the Ukraine," Michael James, a Los Angeles-based managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, said in a phone interview. "People don't want to walk in Monday morning and be negatively surprised by a down market because of military action in Europe, so they're selling off."
Stocks rose earlier after data showed employers boosted payrolls in April by the most in two years and the jobless rate plunged to 6.3 percent as companies grew confident the U.S. economy is emerging from a first-quarter slowdown.
The 288,000 gain in employment was the biggest since January 2012 and followed a revised 203,000 increase the prior month that was stronger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed. The median forecast in a survey of economists called for a 218,000 advance. Unemployment dropped from 6.7 percent to the lowest level since September 2008 as fewer people entered the labor force.
"It's a pretty strong report that suggests the Fed will continue to taper," Anthony Valeri, a market strategist with LPL Financial in San Diego, said in a phone interview. The firm oversees $350 billion. "This is the first strong confirmation we're unwinding some of the winter weakness."
The Federal Reserve said this week that the economy is perking up after stalling last quarter and the job market is improving. The Federal Open Market Committee pared its monthly asset-buying to $45 billion, its fourth straight $10 billion cut, and said further reductions in "measured steps" are likely.