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The markets turned green in volatile action as traders shook off worries about Syria and instead focused on tepid jobs data that could impact the Fed's plans to taper its bond-buying.
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As of 3:00 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 26.6 points, or 0.17%, to 14963, the S&P 500 gained 4.8 points, or 0.3%, to 1660 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 9.8 points, or 0.2%, to 3668.
The markets opened the day solidly higher, but took a sharp downturn just before 10:00 a.m. ET. Traders pinned the sudden drop on comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the country is prepared to back Syria. This comes as Congress is mulling a joint resolution to give President Barack Obama the authority to strike Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians.
However, stocks once again turned positive after Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. issued a joint statement saying the global leaders "call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated."
Meanwhile, traders widely see the August jobs report as one of the most important readings in recent memory as the Federal Reserve crafts its plans to begin paring back its vast bond-buying program.
The Labor Department said the U.S. economy added 169,000 jobs in August, missing economists’ expectations of 180,000. The jobless rate fell to 7.3%, the lowest since December 2008, and less than estimates that it would hold steady at 7.4%.
The labor force participation rate, which gauges the proportion of population in the labor force, fell to 63.2% from 63.4% in July, the lowest since August 1978.
Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at The Lindsey Group, told clients that "bottom line, the pace of labor gains remain mediocre with the 8 month average being 180k and is just 148k over the past three months."
Weighing in on the Fed's plans, Goldman Sachs told its clients that "while the August employment report was a moderate disappointment, we believe it is probably not weak enough to prevent the FOMC from tapering in September."
The investment bank added, however, "it does raise the likelihood of a 'dovish taper,' which could include a small size of the overall adjustment to purchases, and which we think would likely coincide with an enhancement of the forward guidance."
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch weren't so certain, saying "the August employment report was disappointing overall, leaving us comfortable with our view that the Fed is more likely to wait to taper - but it remains a game-day decision."
Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil prices climbed 56 cents, or 0.54%, to $108.96 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.35% to $2.846 a gallon. In metals, gold fell $3, or 0.22%, to $1,370 a troy ounce.
Corporate news was fairly light on the day. Standard & Poor's upgraded Ford Motor's (NYSE:F) corporate credit rating to "BBB-" from "BB+" and upped General Motors' (NYSE:GM) outlook to "positive" from "stable."
Market participants were eyeing what could reportedly be a record bond sale in the near future by Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) to fund its $130 billion buy of the remaining 45% stake in Verizon Wireless from Vodafone (NYSE:VOD).
The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.02% to 2774, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.1% to 6526 and the German DAX fell 0.18% to 8220.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 sold off by 1.5% to 13861 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.1% to 22621.