U.S. stocks opened slightly lower as a surprisingly weak jobs report indicated a marked slowdown in the labor market and outweighed expectations that the low interest rates will remain in place.
The economy added 142,000 new jobs in August, the smallest gain since December and well below Wall Street expectations for 228,000.
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The main benchmarks were on track to record their first weekly loss in five weeks. The S&P 500 (SPX) was 2 points, or 0.1%, lower at 1,995.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) dropped 26 points, or 0.2%, to 17,042.93.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) shed 5 points, or 0.1%, to 4,558.32.
Uri Landesman, the president of Platinum Partners, a New York-based hedge fund, said the weak jobs numbers may indicate that the recovery is stalling.
"In the short term, a few more weak data points may trigger a correction. The market is pricing in the good news but not a lot of bad news. From a technical standpoint, there is not much support in the S&P 500, as the index moved in a straight line up," Landesman said.
Away from jobs: NATO leaders finish their two-day meeting in Wales on Friday, where they have been working on a new set of sanctions against Moscow for supporting pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine. Speaking at the summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. would commit 3,500 troops to a new "spearhead" force to react to Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists were fighting near the port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, according to news reports. The clashes took place as representatives from Ukraine, for pro-Russia rebels and other leaders were expected to meet in Minsk to discuss a plan to halt the fighting.
Movers and shakers: El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (LOCO) gained after the restaurant franchise's second-quarter earnings beat analysts' expectations late Thursday.
Shares of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (KORS) slid after the company's biggest shareholder sold its stake overnight. (Read more about the day's notable stock moves here: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-shares-battered-el-pollo-loco-rallies-on-earnings-2014-09-05.)
Other markets: The euro (EURUSD) hovered around a 14-month low, following the ECB's easing measures announced on Thursday. European stock markets were mostly lower, while Asian bourses closed mixed.
Oil futures (CLV4) erased gains, while precious metals were little changed.