Wall Street up after payrolls, Syria concern lingers

Reuters
A security officer stands guard outside the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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A security officer stands guard outside the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged up in volatile trading on Friday after a weak job market report and after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would maintain his long-standing military and economic support for Syria if the West were to attack it.

The U.S. August payrolls report showed about 169,000 jobs were added, fewer than the 180,000 that had been expected, while the previous month's payroll was revised sharply lower. The unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent, its lowest since December 2008, though the decline reflected a drop in the share of working-age Americans who either have a job or are looking for one.

Many analysts said despite the weak jobs report the U.S. central bank would not adjust plans to slow its stimulus, currently at $85 billion a month in bond purchases.

"Tapering is going to happen but there is a wide range of opinions in terms of how much the Fed is going to taper," said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in New York.

"The market is comfortable with the idea (of tapering) as it is justified by economic growth," he said, pointing to recent data including an almost eight year high in the pace of growth in the U.S. services sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.89 points or 0.23 percent, to 14,972.37, the S&P 500 gained 5.66 points or 0.34 percent, to 1,660.74 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.335 points or 0.23 percent, to 3,667.12.

For the week, the S&P 500 is up 1.7 percent and the Nasdaq is up 2.1 percent. The Dow is up less than 1.1 percent after four weekly losses.

Investors are continuing to assess the possibility of a U.S.-led strike against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack against its civilians.

Putin made clear on Friday that Russia did not want to be sucked into a war over Syria, signaling that Moscow would maintain ongoing support to Damascus in the event of foreign military intervention.

Tanious said getting clarity on Russia's point of view helps ease some concerns, but any U.S. intervention in Syria is likely to impact oil and other markets.

"The (equities) market is jittery and that is understandable," he said.

Energy prices have been among the most volatile on the issue, with investors concerned that military action in the Middle East will weigh on oil supplies. Crude oil has spiked about 3 percent over the past two weeks and was up 1.6 percent on Friday.

American Tower Corp (NYS:AMT - News) rose 4.2 percent to $71.66 after the company agreed to buy Global Tower Partners for $4.8 billion.

E*Trade Financial (NSQ:ETFC - News) shares jumped 4.5 percent to $16.25 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the brokerage's stock to "buy" from "neutral" two days after the company received approval to use capital from its bank subsidiary for broader corporate purposes.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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