Sept. 6 - Stocks gyrate but finish little changed as Syria tough-talk and disappointing jobs data paralyze investors ahead of the weekend. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The monthly jobs report is normally the big mover of the day on Wall Street - but this time it competed with verbal sparring between Presidents Obama and Putin over Syria. In the end, stocks ended little changed as investors did not know which to worry about more. A positive week though: blue chips snapped a month-long decline, while the Nasdaq surged 2 percent. U.S. hiring was softer than expected in August, adding to a summer slowdown, according to the latest figures from the Labor Department. People are so discouraged they gave up search for work, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.3 percent, that's the lowest in 4-1/2 years. Doesn't sound like good news, does it? But it was enough to cast some doubt on whether the Federal Reserve can start slowing bond purchases this month. James Bianco of Bianco Research thinks the Fed is on hold in September, but they can't sit on the fence for long. SOUNDBITE: JAMES BIANCO, PRESIDENT, BIANCO RESEARCH (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If the Fed is going to wait until everything is just right, everything is all in a nice neat package with a bow on it and 'now's the time to taper' that's never going to happen. There's always going to be an issue or two in front of us - whether it's the debt ceiling, or Syria, or it's Obamacare, or it's something else we haven't thought of." Inflation may be on that list in the future if Syria keeps oil prices high. Crude oil closed above $110 a barrel, a more than two-year closing peak. Ford's Alan Mulally has been a star of the auto industry - helping Ford to be the only automaker not to need a bailout during the financial crisis. Sources say he may be planning an earlier than expected exit, but he says he is committed to staying at Ford at least until the end of next year as planned. Some are bouncing his name around as a possible candidate to take over Microsoft. Under his watch, Ford's pick-up truck has a long streak as America's top-selling domestic-made vehicle. Finishing up with Europe: stocks rallied led by a one-percent gain in France.