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Wall Street paused from its big rally Friday, with stocks closing narrowly mixed after the government's November labor report showed tepid job growth as well as a pickup in inflation. The major indexes ended the week higher, with the Dow Jones industrials having gained nearly 900 points over nine trading days.
The Labor Department reported 94,000 jobs were added to payrolls in November and that the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent. Thomson/IFR analysts had set a median projection of 100,000 new jobs. The report also showed that average hourly earnings increased 0.5 percent in November, compared with forecasts for a more-modest 0.3 percent.
The report at least temporarily chilled a rally that has left the Dow only 538 points, or 3.8 percent, below the record close it reached on Oct. 9.
"I'd call it an employment letdown," said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "A little air came out of the party balloon."
On the plus side, the report did give the Fed more room to lower rates. The debate now centers on whether the central bank will drop rates by a quarter percentage point when it meets on Tuesday, or finish the year with a half-point cut. However, Nolte noted that it would be easier to make a case for a larger cut if the November employment report had been weaker.
The Dow rose 5.69, or 0.04 percent, to 13,652.58, and finished the week up 1.9 percent.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.68, or 0.18 percent, to 1,504.66, but ended the week up 1.59 percent.
The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index dipped 2.87, or 0.11 percent, to 2,706.16, but ended the week 1.70 percent higher.
European stocks posted solid gains Friday. The UK's FTSE 100 Index gained 1.1 percent to 6,554.9, while France's CAC-40 Index gained 0.8 percent to 5,718.2. Germany's DAX Index rose 0.7 percent to 7,994.1.
Basic resource stocks rose, on the back of higher metals prices and the possibility of more consolidation in the sector.
Speculation of a possible Anglo American/Xstrata combination resurfaced, sending Xstrata shares up 7.9 percent and Anglo American 5.1 percent higher. Norske Skog shares jumped 15 percent, Antofagasta climbed 5.2 percent and Sweden's Boliden rose 3.7 percent.
Credit Suisse shares rose 1.9 percent, Anglo Irish Bank gained 2.3 percent, National Bank of Greece climbed 2.4 percent and Barclays shares rose 2.4 percent.
Northern Rock leapt 7.4 percent on the news that independent investment group Olivant Advisors had put forward a strategic plan aimed at rehabilitating the troubled U.K. mortgage lender.
Asian markets were mixed Friday as caution crept back into some bourses despite another strong showing on Wall Street on the US government's plan for dealing with the country's credit crisis.
Benchmark indices in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand lost ground as investors took the view that an expected cut in Federal Reserve interest rates next week had already been factored into their markets.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 average, though, hit a one-month high as Japanese investors were heartened by the renewed confidence in the United States, a key market for Japanese goods.
The Nikkei added 0.5 percent to close at 15,956.4 points, marking its highest finish since Nov. 7.
Toyota Motor Corp. added 1.6 percent. Steelmaker JFE Holdings added 4.5 percent.
Home builders also rose on a report of housing tax breaks. Mitsubishi Estate Co. climbed 2.1 percent.
Decliners included Mitsubishi Financial Group, down 2.2 percent, and Mizuho Financial Group, off 1.7 percent. Sony Corp. also fell, losing 1.5 percent.
The broader Topix index, which includes all shares on the exchange's first section, added 0.61 percent to finish at 1,561.8.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's benchmark index tumbled 2.4 percent to 28,842.5 as investors sold property developers boosted recently by the expectations of a US rate cut.
Wheat prices climbed sharply Friday for a second session amid signs of strong demand from buyers abroad. Egypt locked in supply, and India hinted at future purchases.
Other agricultural futures advanced, while energy and precious metals prices declined.
Wheat demand appears robust at a time when supplies are exceedingly tight. With crops in the Southern Hemisphere troubled by poor weather conditions, buyers worldwide have moved to stock their supply shelves.
Egypt's primary wheat buyer, the state-owned General Authority for Supply Commodities, has bought 115,000 metric tons of Russian wheat, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report on Friday. The wire service also reported a senior government official as saying the India State Trading Corp. may buy up to 550,000 metric tons in its tender to be floated Monday.
March corn gained 5.25 cents to $4.1725 a bushel, while January soybeans jumped 21 cents to $11.1975 a bushel.
Energy futures fell broadly. Light, sweet crude for January delivery dropped $1.95 to settle at $88.28 a barrel.
Gasoline futures shed 3.23 cents to $2.269 a gallon, while heating oil futures lost 4.03 cents to $2.5047 a gallon.
Precious metals pulled back as weaker energy prices eased inflationary concerns and lessened the appeal of traditional safe havens such as silver and gold. February gold fell $6.90 an ounce to close at $800.20, while March silver slipped 12 cents to $14.505 an ounce.