NEW YORK — Stocks were wavering between small gains and losses early Friday after the government reported a pickup in hiring last month as well as a slight increase in the unemployment rate as more people started looking for work.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,881 in the first half-hour of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 76 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,498. The Nasdaq composite lost 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,341.
BIGGEST LOSERS: Biotechnology and health care stocks were among the biggest decliners in early trading. Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec were both down roughly 4 percent. Gilead Sciences was down 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite index is more heavily weighted to biotechnology and specialty pharmaceutical companies, which is part of the reason the index is down much more than the Dow or S&P 500.
JOBS: The Labor Department's report of 175,000 job additions last month was much better than expected. Economists had been expecting an increase of 145,000 jobs, according to FactSet. Investors had low expectations because of winter storms that hit much of the country last month. The positive job figures were a relief because the harsh weather closed factories, lowered auto sales, and caused existing-home sales to plummet.
BONDS DROP: Investors sold bonds, causing bond yields to move higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.80 percent from 2.74 percent late Thursday. The yield had been as low as 2.60 percent earlier this week.
DON'T FORGET UKRAINE: Lawmakers in the Russian-occupied Crimea region of Ukraine unanimously declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days. President Barack Obama and several other Western leaders have condemned the move.
BIG GAIN FOR BIG LOTS: The discount retail chain Big Lots soared $6.65, or 23 percent, to $35.88. Big Lots reported a decline in fourth-quarter profits but the company's sales came in much better than expected. The company also said it would shut down its struggling Canadian operations.