The Dow and the S&P 500 advanced modestly on Friday, though another sell-off in Apple depressed technology shares and kept the Nasdaq negative, overshadowing a sharply better-than-expected jobs report.
Trading was light, continuing the week's trend of slight moves and anemic volume. The S&P 500 ended up a mere 0.1 percent for the week, following several volatile sessions that repeatedly pushed it in and out of positive territory. The benchmark index is just 3.8 percent below the 2012 intraday high of 1,474.51 reached in mid-September.
Equities opened higher after the non-farm payrolls report, which showed 146,000 jobs added in November, far more than had been expected, while the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent. A sour reading on consumer sentiment caused an erosion of those gains, though markets rebounded going into the close.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for early December fell to its lowest level since August. Sentiment fell on growing concerns over the "fiscal cliff" debates in Washington, which have been a major factor preventing broader moves as well.
"We're not as concerned as we were a few months ago because of improvement like you can see in the employment number, but there's such a wild card over the cliff," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. "There are such concerns about what could happen that markets will be overhung until a resolution is more certain."
One of the biggest drags on the Nasdaq was Apple which fell 2.6 percent to $533.25, extending its losses for the week to 8.9 percent. This was the worst week for the stock since May 2010, and with the losses, the stock of the largest U.S. company by market value is now down 24.4 percent from an all-time intraday high reached in late September.
In Friday's session, Apple's 50-day moving average fell to $599.52 - below its 200-day moving average at $601.38. The weakness drove the S&P information technology sector <.GSPT> lower. The index fell 0.6 percent and was the weakest of the S&P 500's 10 major industry sectors on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 81.09 points, or 0.62 percent, to 13,155.13 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 4.13 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,418.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> slipped 11.23 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 2,978.04.
For the week, the Nasdaq is down 1.1 percent, hurt largely by the decline in Apple.
The Dow, which does not count Apple as a component, rose 1 percent for its third straight week of gains. The S&P 500 is also up for three straight weeks, rising 4.3 percent over that period.
The equity market has regained most of the ground it lost following President Barack Obama's re-election as markets turned their focus to the coming "fiscal cliff." Market response to the macroeconomic data remained muted as negotiations continued to command investor attention.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said that talks this week with President Barack Obama produced no progress, and he renewed his demand that the president provide a new offer to avert the series of tax increases and spending cuts that are likely to hurt economic demand in 2013.
Material shares <.GSPM> were the strongest performers of the day, with that index up 0.8 percent. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Co gained 2.9 percent to $31.70 while Dow Chemical added 2.2 percent to $30.30.
Amarin Corp fell 18.9 percent to $9.69 after the biopharmaceutical company raised $100 million in financing to help it launch its heart drug, Vascepa, but disappointed investors, who had hoped for a sale or partnership.
CombiMatrix Corp shares more than quadrupled, soaring 336.6 percent to $8.60 after the company said two studies published in a medical journal favored technology it uses for prenatal diagnosis of genetic abnormalities over traditional technologies.
About 52 percent of shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange closed higher while slightly more than 50 percent of Nasdaq-listed stocks closed lower.
Volume was light, with about 5.47 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)