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Market Ends Week on Demure Note

The Dow closes slightly lower, but the Nasdaq edges higher Friday. For the past five sessions, both climb, as does the S&P 500. Frank Curzio reviews the action in The Real Story (above).

Updated from 4:17 p.m. EDT

New York's major averages went out narrowly mixed Friday as traders mostly brushed off a weak monthly payrolls report, suggesting that the market had already expected the dour numbers.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

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swung in a range of 160 points, taking a dive out of the gate and then clawing higher before ending down 16.61 points, or 0.1%, to 12,609.42. The

S&P 500

held on to a slight gain, closing the day up 1.09 points, or 0.1%, at 1370.40. The

Nasdaq Composite

added 7.68 points, or 0.3%, to 2370.98.

"I would say that, in terms of equities, a lot of damage or potential negative news has been priced in," said James Park, managing director with Rodman & Renshaw. "But I'm definitely not calling a bottom here. I think we have to give ourselves a little bit more room for news coming out of the financials, especially going into earnings season."

For the week, stocks finished out the first quarter -- and started off the new one -- with a bang. Over the past five sessions the Dow jumped 2%, the S&P bounced 3.1%, and the Nasdaq surged 5%, boosted especially by a massive rally on Tuesday.

Before the opening bell today, the government said the economy shed 80,000 workers last month, around 30,000 more than economists had predicted. The unemployment rate rose to 5.1% from 4.8% in February.

Also, January and February data were revised to reveal a combined loss of an added 67,000 workers. For the first three months of the year then, the U.S. economy has surrendered 232,000 positions. Taken together, the numbers bolster the case that the nation could be in a recession, as many on Wall Street and Main Street alike have been concerned about for months.

Indeed, said Park, "I guess recession fears are pretty much locked in now. The numbers speak for themselves."

Brian Bethune, chief financial economist with Global Insight, concurred. "We're into the fourth month of declines in jobs in the private sector, so from that perspective it certainly looks like the recession started at the end of 2007, probably in November.

"I guess the good news is that we're not seeing huge declines," he continued. "We haven't really seen a huge month where things suddenly fall off the end of the table. So it seems to be consistent with a mild downturn or shallow recession, probably through May or June."

Breadth was positive to end the week. Around 3.63 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

, with advancers edging out decliners. On the Nasdaq, volume reached 1.98 billion shares, as winners beat losers 5 to 4.

Still, investors betrayed at least something of a lack of confidence in equities by pouring into Treasury securities. The 10-year note was climbing 29/32 in price to yield 3.47%, and the 30-year bond surged 1-8/32 in price, yielding 4.31%.

Commodities also gained ground as the dollar retreated by 0.3% against the euro to $1.5675 and fetched just 101.56 yen, a 0.8% slide from yesterday. Crude oil rose $2.40 to settle at $106.83 a barrel, and gold futures advanced $3.60 to $913.20 an ounce.

Investors were also dealing with a fresh batch of negative corporate news.

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

lost 2.9% after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to hold from buy, saying that the computer maker's turnaround efforts have been slow-going and that the difficult market environment will probably hinder them further.

Deutsche Bank cut

Riverbed Technologies

(RVBD)

to hold from buy after the company brought its first-quarter guidance below the mean analyst projection. Shares of the distributed computing firm slid 12.1%.

Elsewhere,

Lawson Software

(LWSN)

saw mixed trading after the company forecast subpar fiscal fourth-quarter earnings. Third-quarter income met Wall Street targets. Shares closed up 0.9%.

Mosaic

(MOS) - Get Report

, however, jumped 10.1% on news that the fertilizer maker's fiscal third-quarter profit soared more than twelvefold to $520.8 million, or $1.17 a share, on sales that nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Elsewhere, Moody's cut the financial-strength rating of mortgage lender

Countrywide

(CFC)

, but the ratings agency still expects its deal to be acquired by

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

to be completed. Countrywide shed 7.2%, and BofA lost 2.4%.

In other analyst actions, clothing retailer

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

and satellite-radio concern

Sirius

(SIRI) - Get Report

were both cut to neutral at Credit Suisse. Gap shares eased 3.6%, but Sirius finished flat at $2.79.

Pocketbook purveyor

Coach

(COH)

was raised to strong buy from neutral at Buckingham Research, lifting shares by 2.1% at $32.92.

Markets abroad were mostly higher. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.7% overnight, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong rose 1.6%. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 added 1%, and Germany's Xetra Dax and the Paris Cac moved up 0.3% each.