Wall Street declines heading into close | Reuters

U.S. stocks fell in choppy trading on Friday afternoon as sliding oil prices offset upbeat U.S. job growth data.

The S&P 500 was on track for its worst five-day start to a year since at least 1929.

Oil prices tumbled to their lowest in more than a decade and posted steep losses for the week, and the S&P energy sector .SPNY extended this week's slide.

Data showed U.S. nonfarm payrolls surged in December and the 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 ever 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 week has witnessed some of the most concerning phenomenon in some time. People are skittish in holding positions," said Richard Scalone, co-head of foreign exchange at TJM Brokerage in Chicago.

At 3:27 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 73.8 points, or 0.45 percent, to 16,440.3, the S&P 500 .SPX had lost 9.15 points, or 0.47 percent, to 1,933.94 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC had dropped 12.33 points, or 0.26 percent, to 4,677.10.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,758 to 1,273, for a 1.38-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,704 issues fell and 1,109 advanced for a 1.54-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 72 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 11 new highs and 269 new lows.

(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Meredith Mazzilli)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2016 03:00:15 IST

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