U.S. stocks fell on Friday on fears of a financial meltdown stemming from the debt crisis in Greece, but trading was extremely volatile in the aftermath of Thursday's dramatic plunge, keeping investors on edge.
Stocks got some support from data showing the U.S. economy added jobs in April at the fastest pace in four years. Indexes were well off their lows for the day.
Governments around the world tried to calm markets after fears about Greece's debt crisis went global, with investors seeing it as an omen of turmoil in other European economies. Meanwhile, investors were still rattled by the uncertainty surrounding the swiftness and size of Thursday's drop.
The concern over what's unfolding in Europe is the major overhang, said Michael Strauss, chief economist and market strategist at Commonfund in Wilton, Connecticut.
All the eternal doom and gloomers are out, the people that have been bearish for the last two years and never got bullish at any point.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> lost 49.88 points, or 0.47 percent, to 10,470.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 6.54 points, or 0.58 percent, to 1,121.61. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 25.70 points, or 1.11 percent, to 2,293.94.
Stocks were off their lows by midday, and decliners and advancers were nearly even on the NYSE.
The CBOE volatility index <.VIX>, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, fell back from a fresh 52-week high and was up only about 5 percent.
The benchmark S&P 500 index briefly turned negative for the year during Thursday's free-fall but was back up 1 percent for 2010 on Friday.
The Nasdaq fared worse than the other two indexes as tech stocks led the broader market lower. Apple Inc fell nearly 3 percent to $239.09 and Intel Corp eased 0.8 percent to 21.33.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission held urgent discussions with other regulators to try and shed light on the causes of Thursday's plunge.
The Dow suffered its biggest-ever intraday point drop -- 998.5 points -- on Thursday. The free-fall may have been exacerbated by erroneous trades that showed some shares briefly fell to nearly zero. The Nasdaq and other exchanges said they would cancel erroneous trades.
The market would feel better if there was some glaring mistake made somewhere along the line because it would make what happened more comprehensible, said Rick Meckler, president, LibertyView Capital Management, New York.
If that's not the case and it's just the result of machine-driven trading, it will be more worrisome and cause to pull back further from the market.
Lawmakers in Germany and other euro zone countries backed emergency aid for Greece, clearing key hurdles for Athens' multibillion-euro aid package. Even so, investors remain anxious that Greece's debt problems could spill over to other countries.
On the domestic front, U.S. employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department said, and revised figures for February and March to show 121,000 more jobs were added than previously thought. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 9.9 percent as the size of the labor force increased.
A Reuters poll of economists had forecast an April increase of 200,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.
On the upside, shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc rose 1.6 percent to $144.58 after the Wall Street Journal reported the company was in settlement talks with the SEC over fraud charges.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)