NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fluctuated, after benchmark indexes closed at all-time highs Thursday, as a report showed companies hired fewer workers than forecast in October while the jobless rate dropped to a six-year low.
Energy stocks rallied as Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. and Newfield Exploration Co. climbed more than 3 percent. Sears Holdings Corp. soared 35 percent on plans to explore the sale and leaseback of 200 to 300 stores. Walt Disney Co. slid 2.5 percent after it reported profit fell at TV networks. Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. tumbled 33 percent after its chief financial officer resigned.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped less than 0.2 percent to 2,027.84 at 3:26 p.m. in New York after gaining a similar amount earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22.8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,531.67. Both gauges closed at records Thursday. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.4 percent. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 17 percent below the 30-day average for this time of the day.
"We're moving toward pause mode and a period of digestion following the rally of the past few weeks," Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $120 billion, said by phone. "The market rallied in expectation of a generally positive employ
ment report, which occurred with non-farm payrolls over 200,000. But average wages being flat implies the pace of growth is somewhat slow, so valuations may increasingly become an issue."
While employment gains exceeded 200,000 for a ninth straight month in October, the 214,000 increase fell short of the 235,000 forecast by economists. The result followed a 256,000 advance the prior month that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed Friday.
The jobless rate declined to 5.8 percent, even as more people entered the labor force, boosting the share of the population working to the highest in five years. Steadfast hiring signals employers are confident domestic demand will hold up in the face of struggling European and emerging economies.
"We've seen a shift away from 'will we grow?' to one of 'how fast will we grow?' " Jeff Korzenik, the Chicago-based chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Bancorp., said a phone interview. The firm oversees $26 billion. Friday's payrolls report "is moderately disappointing in terms of the pace of growth, but there is no question that this is evidence of continued growth."
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average extended all- time highs. The S&P 500 is up 0.7 percent this week, heading for a third straight weekly gain, after election results shifted control of the Senate from Democrats to Republicans and the European Central Bank vowed to increase stimulus efforts if needed.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said central banks must do whatever it takes if governments won't use the public purse to invigorate economies struggling with low growth and below- target inflation.
"Central banks need to be prepared to employ all available tools, including unconventional policies, to support economic growth and reach their inflation targets," Yellen said.