US stocks muddled as Ukraine tensions fester


NEW YORK — One positive report on the economy was not enough to make investors more confident.

The stock market ended mixed Friday after a day of muddled trading. Among the three main U.S. stock indexes, one edged higher, one closed little changed and the other closed lower.

Investors focused on the tensions in Ukraine, where the region of Crimea was preparing for a referendum on whether to split away and become part of Russia. It was enough of a reason to sell into the weekend and to offset optimism over a pickup in hiring by U.S. employers last month.

The Labor Department said companies created 175,000 jobs last month, easily topping economists’ forecasts. While encouraging, investors didn’t see the February report as part of a broader trend. December and January job figures were mediocre, and the harsh winter weather has closed factories, cut into auto sales, and caused existing-home sales to plummet for the last three months.

“People are hoping and praying that the recent slowness was weather-related, and while this report gave people a little bit of hope that is the case, it is still too early to tell,” said Krishna Memani, chief investment officer of OppenheimerFunds.

The Standard &Poor’s 500 index closed roughly flat, up a point, or 0.05 percent, to 1,878.04. The Dow Jones rose 30.83 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,452.72 and the Nasdaq composite lost 15.90 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,336.22.

On the whole, the overall tone of the market was slightly negative. Three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index, six fell.

Biotechnology and health care stocks were among the biggest decliners. Biogen Idec fell roughly 4 percent and Amgen fell 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite index is more heavily weighted to biotechnology and specialty pharmaceutical companies, which is part of the reason the index fell even though the Dow and S&P 500 rose.