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Jobs report helps temper some market uncertainty

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After a week of ups and downs in the stock market, investors were mixed in their reaction to the news that the U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs in December, a number that was widely expected.

The S&P 500 rose 1.98 points, or 0.14%, as of 10:56 a.m. EST, while the Dow remained essentially flat. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite index fell 7.91, or 0.26%.

The news from the jobs report helped continue turbulence in the markets after minutes released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday raised investor concern, indicating that some members of the Federal Open Market Committee wanted to end quantitative easing sometime this year.

Quantitative easing is when central banks buy financial assets from commercial banks, injecting money into the economy. The Fed had expanded quantitative easing to help stabilize the economy, but some members of the FOMC suggested there was not a broad consensus in how long to continue these programs.

“This could mean that maybe the end of the open-ended purchase programs could be sooner than the market things,” said Ward McCarthy, managing director of Jeffries & Co.

The job report showed unemployment at 7.8%, a tad higher than the 7.7% analysts had expected. A report released Thursday by ADP, a payroll processing firm, showed that the private sector gained 215,000 jobs in December, making some analysts hope for a higher jobs number. They didn’t see it Friday.

“The U.S. labor market ended 2012 with the same tepid gain in payrolls that characterized its performance all year,” wrote Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director of Moody’s Analytics, in a note.

The news was enough to help gold recover slightly from the blow caused by the FOMC minutes Thursday – quantitative easing has benefited gold futures. Gold for February delivery was down $27.40, or 1.64%, as of 10:39 EST, but was rallying slightly from earlier in the day.

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