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US STOCKS-Wall St edges lower, energy shares offset payrolls

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Fri, Nov 02, 2012 17:00 hrs

* U.S. employers hire more in October than expected

* Energy shares weak, Chevron drops after results

* Starbucks raises outlook, U.S. sales beat expectation

* Dow down 0.3 pct, S&P 500 off 0.2 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Nov 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dipped in a volatile session on Friday that took the major indexes between gains and losses as a stronger-than-expected payrolls report was offset by weakness in energy and materials shares.

Employers added 171,000 people to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. The number exceeded forecasts, and the government also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than initially estimated. Still, sustained job gains of this magnitude would only bring the unemployment rate down slowly.

"The report itself was good, but just not good enough, especially after the pre-rally we had yesterday," said Todd Schoenberger, managing principal at the BlackBay Group, in New York, referring to a 1.1-percent surge in the S&P 500 on Thursday, the index's best day since Sept. 13.

The latest jobs report, which is the last one before the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, could boost President Barack Obama's fortunes at the ballot box, though polls continue to indicate a close race between Obama and the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

"With the election next week, and the outcome of that still so uncertain, some modest downward pressure is to be expected for the rest of the day," Schoenberger said.

Materials shares were the day's weakest, with the S&P materials index falling 1.2 percent. Newmont Mining Corp dropped 6.2 percent to $49.92 after its profits missed expectations.

Chevron Corp, a Dow component, fell 2.2 percent to $109 after the second-largest U.S. oil company posted a profit that missed expectations. Chesapeake Energy also weighed on energy stocks as its shares fell 5.7 percent to $18.93, far outrunning a 2 percent drop in the price of crude oil.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 35.94 points, or 0.27 percent, to 13,196.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 2.14 points, or 0.15 percent, at 1,425.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 7.14 points, or 0.24 percent, to 3,012.92.

The S&P 500 was still on track for its best weekly gain since the week ended Sept. 16, lifted by a rally Thursday, when the index enjoyed its best day in seven weeks, thanks to bullish consumer confidence and private-sector jobs data.

The current trading week has been shortened by a historic two-day market closure on Monday and Tuesday, spurred by the superstorm Sandy's devastating sweep through the U.S. Northeast.

The S&P 500 index is down more 2 percent from a recent peak in September, and is below its 50-day moving average, amid investor caution ahead of the election and tough government budget negotiations at the end of the year.

Starbucks Corp jumped 10.9 percent to $51.69 after raising its profit forecast for the fiscal year as sales in the United States, its top market, beat expectations, providing the company optimism that has eluded much of the U.S. restaurant industry in recent months.

Professional social network LinkedIn Corp beat Wall Street's third-quarter profit and revenue targets, as advertising rates increased and sales from its hiring services nearly doubled. The shares rose 1.1 percent to $107.98, after earlier touching an intraday high at $114.69.

Restoration Hardware shares soared 32 percent to $31.67 in their market debut after the upscale furniture retailer's initial public offering was priced at the high end of the expected range. The shares hit an intraday high at $33.15 - up 38.1 percent from the IPO price of $24.

From New York City's Staten Island to the popular beach towns of the Jersey Shore, rescuers and officials continued to face widespread destruction Friday wrought by Sandy, as well as a rising death toll and frustration over delayed relief and fuel shortages.

Verizon may take another two weeks to restore telecommunication services for its customers after flooding and power outages knocked out services during superstorm Sandy, according to a top executive at the company. The stock was down 0.2 percent at $45.06.



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