US STOCKS-Wall St retreats after S&P record; Ukraine woes in focus

Fri Mar 7, 2014 3:27pm EST

* U.S. job growth an upbeat sign for weather-beaten economy

* Putin rebuffs Obama as Ukraine crisis escalates

* Dow up 0.1 pct; S&P 500 flat; Nasdaq off 0.4 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks pulled back on Friday, with the Nasdaq extending losses in late afternoon trading as investors adjusted their positions ahead of the weekend and caution prevailed because of the simmering crisis in Ukraine.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 retreated from session highs.

The S&P 500 had climbed to an intraday record of 1,883.57 shortly after the opening bell, lifted by the Labor Department's report showing that U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls in February. Economists had expected a gain of 149,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.

But as the market digested the jobs report, some analysts said the data has sparked the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve would take more action at its policy meeting later this month. The Fed, however, is expected to keep reducing its monthly bond-buying program.

"It seems that the decent February employment report, although a step in the right direction, has resolved little," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.

"Stocks are suffering from some inevitable ebbing following the latest strong flow. That, in turn, has prompted further defensive demand for the protection afforded by options."

The CBOE Volatility Index or the VIX, Wall Street's fear gauge, reversed course from its decline in earlier trading. The VIX was up 0.1 percent at 14.22 with less than an hour left in the regular session.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are on track for a second straight week of gains, while the Nasdaq is poised for its fifth straight weekly advance.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.25 points or 0.14 percent, to 16,445.14. The S&P 500 gained 0.21 points or 0.01 percent, to 1,877.24. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.725 points or 0.43 percent, to 4,333.401.

The Nasdaq fell as low as 4,319.15 by late afternoon and then recovered some of that loss in choppy trading.

Geopolitical concerns increased when Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed a warning from U.S. President Barack Obama over Moscow's military intervention in Crimea, saying Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.

After investors piled into gold, crude and grains on Monday as tensions escalated over Crimea, they have cautiously returned to stocks around the world. A gauge of global equities traded near a six-year high, while the S&P 500 closed on Thursday at a record.

Shares of FireEye Inc dropped 9.5 percent to $81.08 after the network security company priced a follow-on public offering. The company sold 14 million shares of its common stock at $82 per share.

Safeway Inc, the second-largest U.S. mainstream grocery store operator, said Thursday that private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management would acquire the company in a deal valued at about $9.4 billion. Safeway shares fell 2.4 percent to $38.51.

Skullcandy Inc shares shot up 32.2 percent to $9.82 after the headphone maker posted fourth-quarter earnings and provided an outlook for the first-quarter and full year.

Big Lots Inc shares surged 22.1 percent to $35.70 after the close-outs retailer reported a better-than-expected adjusted profit for the holiday quarter.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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