Stock Market Today: Stocks Turn Higher, S&P Hovers Near 2,000

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock markets turned higher in early afternoon trading on Friday after some elements of geopolitical uncertainty were removed on reports that Ukraine and pro-Russia forces signed a cease-fire agreement.  

Stocks had been trading incrementally lower for most of the session after weak gains in the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for August left the markets divided on whether the Federal Reserve might hike rates next summer. The S&P 500   was on track to snap four straight weeks of gains.

Watch the video below for a closer look at how U.S. markets are doing in midday trading Friday:


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The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.22% to 17,106.44. The S&P 500 was up 0.24% to 2,002.39. The Nasdaq was up 0.11% to 4,567.42.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 142,000 in August from an upwardly-revised 212,000 in July. The reading was lower than the 225,000 increase economists had expected for August and the smallest gain this year. The labor force participation rate remained low at 62.8% in August, essentially unchanged since April. As expected, the joblessness rate inched down to 6.1% from July's 6.2%.

"The worse-than-expected jobs number makes many believe that an increase in rates may be delayed some," said Schaeffer's Investment Research's senior equity analyst Joe Bell.

While the headlines numbers were at odds with the recent string of strong ISM reports and inspired views that they would give Fed Chair Janet Yellen more latitude in deciding when to raise rates, Voya Investment Management's senior market strategist Karyn Cavanaugh warned that August is a "tricky" month with a lot of seasonal hiring.

"I suspect we could see some revisions. The path back to normal will be paved with some volatility but the overall market trend is up. The data is too positive to support a delay," she said.

In top corporate headlines, Starbucks (SBUX) inched up 0.39% to $77.46 after announcing the December launch of its first-ever Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. The company expects the integrated coffee roasting, education and retail space will pave the way for it to grow its Starbucks Reserve coffee presence to 1,500 stores globally by the end of fiscal 2015 and open at least 100 stores designed to highlight these rare coffees.

El Pollo LoCo (LOCO) posted a 6.3% increase in revenue to a higher-than-expected $86.9 million in the second quarter. Earnings were in line with analysts' estimates. Shares jumped more than 5% in after-hours trading on Thursday and extended gains to Friday, rising 0.99% to $35.13.

Family Dollar Stores (FDO) fell 1.57% to $78.80 and Dollar General (DG) lost 2.92% to $62.60 after Family Dollar rejected the larger rival's sweetened bid of $9.1 billion based on antitrust considerations.

U.S. regulators are proposing to label insurer MetLife (MET) as a potential threat to the financial system, a designation that brings stricter government oversight. The stock was down 0.52% to $55.13.

The SPDR Gold Trust (ETF) (GLD) edged up 0.17% to $121.69. The United States Oil Fund (USO) was down 1.3% to $34.84.

--By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

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