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Stocks mixed after U.S. unemployment rate drops

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 5:14 p.m.

A big drop in the unemployment rate wasn't enough for investors on Friday. Stocks posted gains early in the day but faded to a mixed close.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate had declined to 7.8 percent, its first dip below 8 percent in nearly four years. The decline from 8.1 percent the month before was bigger than economists had expected.

Stocks rose on that news, but the gains didn't last. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 34.79 points to close at 13,610.15, after rising 86 points earlier in the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.47 points to 1,460.93, and the Nasdaq dropped 13.27 points to 3,136.19.

Employers added 114,000 jobs last month. That was in line with what economists were expecting, but the government revised its estimates higher for job growth in July and August.

The drop to 7.8 percent in the unemployment rate “really is not a big game-changer,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. “Yes, more people were hired, but job creation did come in in line with expectations.”

“The jobs report today was just a validation that things are improving and that people are feeling good,” said Marty Leclerc, chief investment officer of Barrack Yard Advisors. “So as investors, of course, that's when we're most apprehensive.”

Consumer discretionary stocks rose, led by Home Depot and Lowe's, both up more than 2 percent. Industrial stocks also rose. Technology and energy stocks had broad declines.

Despite the mixed day, the Dow managed to reach a milestone: its highest close since December 2007. The S&P is close, but not quite back to, its December 2007 high. The Dow and S&P had their first positive weeks after two weeks of losses. The Dow rose 1.3 percent for the week, the S&P 1.4 percent.

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