* Payroll report misses expectations, unemployment rate
* Fed's George favors cutting bond buys to about $70 bln a
* Geopolitical concerns weigh on market, Syria in focus
* American Tower shares up, to buy Global Tower Partners
* Indexes: Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.01 pct, Nasdaq up 0.03
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Sept 6 U.S. stocks closed little
changed in choppy trade on Friday after labor market data
removed some uncertainty about Federal Reserve policy, but
concerns remained about possible military action by the West
The U.S. August payrolls report showed about 169,000 jobs
were added, fewer than the 180,000 that had been expected, and
July's figure was revised sharply lower. The unemployment rate
fell to 7.3 percent, its lowest since December 2008, though the
decline reflected a drop in the share of working-age Americans
who either have a job or are looking for one.
Many analysts said, despite the weak jobs report, the U.S.
central bank would not adjust plans to slow its stimulus, known
as quantitative easing, currently at $85 billion a month.
Economists at a majority of U.S. primary dealers expect the
Fed to announce at a policy meeting less than two weeks away
that it will cut its bond purchases, according to a Reuters
Kansas City Fed President Esther George, a consistent hawk
who has argued for a tapering of bond purchases all year, said
reducing purchases to $70 billion a month could be "an
appropriate next step toward normalizing monetary policy."
A cut of around $15 billion would be more in line with
current market expectations, which a few months ago priced in a
more aggressive reduction.
"I am still a fan of the 'taper lite' - it won't be the
initial number that was originally talked about in June, but you
still get something," said Stephen Massocca, managing director,
Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
"They want to get out of the QE business, they want to start
moving to the sidelines. The important thing to point out is
that QE was put in place for a really bad economy. It's not a
really bad economy."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 14.98 points or
0.1 percent, to 14,922.5, the S&P 500 gained 0.09 points
or 0.01 percent, to 1,655.17 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 1.225 points or 0.03 percent, to 3,660.01.
For the week, the S&P 500 finished up 1.4 percent and the
Nasdaq was up 2 percent. The Dow rose 0.8 percent to snap a
streak of four weekly declines.
After initially opening higher, major indexes declined, with
the S&P 500 down nearly 0.9 percent before rebounding. Indexes
then again pared gains in the last hour of trading.
Investors are continuing to assess the possibility of a
U.S.-led strike against Syria in retaliation for an alleged
chemical weapons attack against its civilians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear on Friday that
Russia did not want to be sucked into a war over Syria,
signaling that Moscow would maintain support for Damascus in the
event of foreign military intervention.
U.S. President Barack Obama said most leaders of the G20
countries agree Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible
for using poison gas against civilians as he tried to rally
support at home and abroad for a military strike.
Energy prices have been among the most volatile on the
issue, with investors concerned that military action in the
Middle East will weigh on oil supplies. U.S. crude oil
has spiked almost 4 percent over the past two weeks and settled
up 2 percent at $110.53 a barrel on Friday.
American Tower Corp rose 4.6 percent to $71.91 after
the company agreed to buy Global Tower Partners for $4.8
E*Trade Financial shares jumped 4.6 percent to
$16.26 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the brokerage's stock to
"buy" from "neutral" two days after the company received
approval to use capital from its bank subsidiary for broader
Volume was light with about 5.84 billion shares traded on
the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE MKT and Nasdaq, below the
daily average of 6.25 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by
1,691 to 1,242, while on the Nasdaq, decliners beat advancers
1,210 to 1,298.