U.S. stocks rose in choppy trading on Friday as investors grappled with conflicting monthly jobs data, with the Dow industrials boosted after Wal-Mart said it was buying back more of its shares.
Government data showed employers cut fewer jobs than expected in May, but the unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent, the highest since July 1983, from 8.9 percent in April.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 52.84 points, or 0.60 percent, to 8,803.08. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 2.36 points, or 0.25 percent, to 944.82. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 1.84 points, or 0.10 percent, to 1,851.86.
Initially, stocks rose, as the blue-chip Dow gained more than 1 percent after the Labor Department said non-farm payrolls contracted by 345,000, much less than expected. But as the session progressed the major indexes reversed course.
Sooner or later this market is going to realize that news that is not as bad as expected is still bad, said Terry Morris, senior vice president and senior equity manager for National Penn Investors Trust Co in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Rather than a deceleration of bad news, how about some good news?
Market volatility increased and shares dipped, with some traders citing rumors that the payroll figures possibly underestimated the scale of job losses. The Labor Department said the rumor was false. By late morning, the major indexes were up again.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc rose 1.7 percent to $51.69 after the world's largest retailer announced a $15 billion share repurchase plan.
With the market soaring more than 40 percent from 12-year lows on March 9, investors sought more concrete signs the economy was stabilizing.