The Nasdaq turned positive late in the session on Friday, while the Dow and the S&P pared losses to nearly flat as investors snapped up technology and materials stocks.
The modest recovery came after stocks dropped more than 1 percent earlier in the day on weak U.S. jobs data and continued concerns on the euro zone's sovereign debt problems.
Cisco Systems and Intel Corp ranked among the top advancers on the Dow, and helped the Nasdaq erase losses.
Cisco was up 2.6 percent at $23.75 and Intel gained 2.4 percent to $19.49.
It always gets a little overdone, and in the short run, the market earlier today reached a very oversold position and
stepped back to say, 'OK, has anything really changed?' For U.S. investors, the answer is no. said Joe Keating, chief investment officer at RBC Bank Investment Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 39.60 points, or 0.40 percent, at 9,962.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.11 points, or 0.10 percent, at 1,062.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 9.14 points, or 0.43 percent, at 2,134.57.
Materials stocks also rebounded after falling throughout most of the day, with Alcoa Inc up 1.9 percent at $13.15.
But the overall investor sentiment was bearish. European policy-makers scrambled to reassure markets about the stability of the 16-nation currency bloc, and Portugal backed a law that may push its swollen deficit higher.
Memories of 2008 still linger and people are reminded of what prompted the whole crisis, which were problems in the debt market and liquidity issues ... the same kind of problems lingering now for sovereign countries, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
Investors are questioning, 'How far is this fire going to spread?'
The biggest losers included industrial shares, with General Electric Co off 1.7 percent at $15.78 and Boeing Co down 1.6 percent at $58.40.
U.S. employers unexpectedly cut 20,000 jobs in January, but the unemployment rate dropped to a five-month low of 9.7 percent, the Labor Department reported.
On Thursday, the Dow briefly slipped below the crucial 10,000 mark as stocks suffered their worst daily declines in more than nine months.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jan Paschal)