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US: Wall Street flat after payrolls but uptrend seen intact


[NEW YORK] US stocks were mostly flat but still near record highs on Friday after the October US payroll report came in weaker than expected, even as the report pointed to economic resilience in the face of slowing global demand.

Employers added 214,000 jobs last month, below the 231,000 expected in a Reuters poll of economists, while August and September's gains were revised higher. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8 per cent from 5.9 per cent.

"It's hard to not bet on the economy, with the fundamentals looking like a full house: earnings are rock solid, we're growing at a nice pace and confidence is up," said David Kelly, chief global strategist for JPMorgan Funds in New York. "The number was slightly weaker than expected but until we see real weakness or higher interest rates, we'll continue to be overweight on equities." Gains were limited in the Dow by Walt Disney Co, which fell 3.1 per cent to US$89.12 a day after posting earnings that met expectations, though its cable networks were weaker. The stock closed at a record high on Thursday.

Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd plummeted 36.5 per cent to US$87.94 in its biggest one-day drop a day after it slashed its full-year forecast as its inventory for key drugs piled up. The issue dissuaded Allergan Inc from acquiring the drugmaker, people familiar with the matter said. More than 12.4 million shares exchanged hands in early trading, more than six times Salix's 50-day average of almost 2 million.

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First Solar Inc sank 9.5 per cent to US$51.05 as the biggest decliner on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 a day after the company said it wouldn't spin off its solar power plants into a separate, publicly traded entity as some of its competitors have done.

Energy shares were the day's strongest performers by far, rising 1.2 percent alongside a 1.5 per cent jump in crude oil prices. Among the most active names, Chesapeake Energy rose 4.6 per cent to US$23.81 while Newfield Exploration was up 4.1 per cent at US$33.83.

At 11:04 a.m. (1604 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 8.34 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 17,546.13, the S&P 500 gained 0.79 point, or 0.04 per cent, to 2,032 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 14.95 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 4,623.52.

For the week, the Dow is up 0.9 per cent and the S&P is up 0.7 per cent in their third straight week of gains. The Nasdaq is down 0.2 per cent for the week.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,723 to 1,192, for a 1.45-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,451 issues fell and 1,046 advanced for a 1.39-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 44 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 68 new highs and 36 new lows.