U.S. stocks bounced in and out of positive territory in choppy trading on Friday as investors were whipsawed by the effects of fluctuating oil prices and robust U.S. job growth data.
Oil prices slipped below $33 per barrel - their lowest in more than a decade. They have lost about 70 percent since mid-2014.
Data showed nonfarm payrolls surged in December and unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent. October and November payrolls were revised sharply higher.
The upbeat report suggested that a recent manufacturing-led slowdown in economic growth would be temporary.
Investors have been jittery as markets got off to their worst four-day start to a year, spooked by fears of a slowdown in China, and as economists slashed fourth-quarter U.S. growth estimates.
Soothing investors' nerves, China nudged the yuan higher for the first time in nine days on Friday. Traders also welcomed the country's decision to suspend a circuit breaker that halted trading twice this week.
"The market's reaction is something between curious and concerning," said Richard Scalone, co-head of foreign exchange at TJM Brokerage in Chicago.
"You are not getting that much of a lasting reaction in markets. The week has witnessed some of the most concerning phenomenon in some time. People are skittish in holding positions."
At 13:19 p.m. ET (1819 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 7.5 points, or 0.05 percent, at 16,521.6, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 0.12 points, or 0.01 percent, at 1,942.97 and the Nasdaq Composite index .IXIC was up 6.38 points, or 0.14 percent, at 4,695.80.
Seven of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with the utilities index's .SPLRCU 0.65 percent rise leading the advancers.
Apple (AAPL.O) shares snapped their three-day losing streak and were up 1.8 percent, giving the biggest boost to the three major indexes.
The energy index .SPNY lost 0.78 percent, with Exxon (XOM.N) weighing the most on the sector.
Friday's jobs report was the first since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last month for the first time in nearly a decade.
While various Fed officials have said four rate hikes in 2016 could be possible, economists and traders are pricing in two hikes, while reducing bets on a third hike by December.
The Fed meets next on Jan. 26-27.
Gap (GPS.N) was down 13.9 percent at $23.02 after the apparel retailer reported a larger-than-expected drop in December same-store sales.
Container Store (TCS.N) slumped 42.5 percent to $4.13, a day after storage products retailer's fourth-quarter profit forecast missed estimates.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,631 to 1,353. On the Nasdaq, 1,566 issues fell and 1,176 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed one new 52-week high and 62 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded nine new highs and 235 new lows.
(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
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