U.S. STOCKS-Wall Street nearly flat after tepid jobs report

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 02, 2013 19:10 hrs

* U.S. unemployment rate falls, but payrolls disappoint

* LinkedIn, AIG shares rise after results

* Dell committee and buyout group announce agreement, shares up

* Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.04 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Aug 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were nearly flat on Friday after data showed the jobless rate fell in July but U.S. hiring slowed.

The Dow and the S&P 500 pulled back from the record closing highs they hit on Thursday, with Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, among the biggest drags on the two indexes. Chevron posted a steeper-than-expected 26 percent drop in quarterly profit, and its shares fell 1.8 percent to $124.13.

The jobs report showed non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, below expectations, but the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest since December 2008. The mixed data could make the Federal Reserve more cautious about scaling back its massive economic stimulus.

The tepid report follows a series of better-than-expected data and optimism about strong growth in the second half of the year.

"The employment number clearly was a surprise on the downside," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

But, he said, "that the jobs picture has improved is pretty well established, so this may not be the driver that it was before things turned around."

Five of the 10 S&P 500 industry sectors moved lower, led by losses of 1 percent in the energy index. Shares of Exxon Mobil were down 1.3 percent at $91.48.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 9.30 points, or 0.06 percent, at 15,618.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.61 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,706.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.89 points, or 0.16 percent, at 3,681.64.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 posted its strongest day in three weeks and closed above the 1,700 level for the first time.

Time Warner Cable fell 1.8 percent to $115.52 after Bloomberg reported that Cox Communications Inc has held talks about merging with cable provider and rival Charter Communications Inc. Charter added 4.4 percent to $133.56.

Dell's special committee and a group led by founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell announced a deal that dramatically increases the chances of his $24.6 billion buyout going through. Dell shares gained 5.3 percent to $13.65.

LinkedIn shares jumped 11.1 percent to $236.35 and several brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after results on Thursday topped expectations.

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