U.S. stocks ended nearly flat after a choppy trading session on Friday, with all three major indices posting weekly gains, as investors tried to digest a tepid U.S. jobs report amid ongoing worries over Syria.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 14.98 points, or 0.10 percent, to 14,922.50 points. The S&P 500 was up 0.09 point, or 0. 01 percent, to 1,655.17 points. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1.23 points, or 0.03 percent, to 3,660.01 points.
For the week, the Dow inched up 0.8 percent, and the S&P advanced 1.4 percent while the Nasdaq rose 2.0 percent.
The market opened higher but then experienced a seesaw trading session, triggered by growing jitters over Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia will help Syria in the case of an external military attack at a press conference of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
Also on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama told the press that countries must set aside differences to find a solution for Syria and that he was "not itching for military action." Obama is expected to address the American people Tuesday on Syria.
On the economic front, the U.S. Labor Department said that the country's employers added 169,000 jobs in August, fewer than market expectations of 180,000 jobs. And payrolls for July and June were revised down considerably by the department.
Meanwhile, unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in August, the lowest level since December 2008, mainly attributable to a smaller labor force participation rate.
The lackluster jobs report raised questions about whether the Federal Reserve should dial back its monetary stimulus soon.
"The unemployment rate is falling at a dead-steady rate but not for the reasons the Fed had hoped ... There is a tendency (for Fed) to fall back on the unemployment rate as the best gauge of labor market health," FTN Financial Chief Economist Christopher Low said.
JP Morgan Chief U.S. Economist Michael Feroli said that the jobs report was "a little bit of a disappointment," but in their opinion "still good enough to leave intact the first tapering of asset purchases at the September FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting."
Regarding the Fed, Feroli said JP Morgan economists think today 's number leaves the Fed on track for a 15-billion-U.S. dollar tapering at the September meeting, with a risk of a smaller 10- billion-dollar move.
Kansas City Fed President Esther George said Friday that "an appropriate next step toward normalizing monetary policy could be to reduce the pace of purchases from 85 billion dollars to something around 70 billion dollars per month."
Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said Friday the U.S. central bank can scale back its quantitative easing later this year if the economic conditions continue to improve.
The market began to shift its focus to the Fed's policy meeting scheduled for Sept. 17-18.
On other markets, the U.S. dollar retreated against major currencies Friday as the weaker-than-expected non-farm payroll report led the market to speculate the Fed wouldn't taper its monetary stimulus soon.
In late New York trading, the euro rose to 1.3181 dollars from 1.3122 dollars of the previous session, and the British pound increased to 1.5634 dollars from 1.5519 dollars. The dollar bought 99.24 Japanese yen, lower than 100.13 yen of the previous session.
Meanwhile, gold futures rebounded on the weak jobs report. The most active gold contract for December delivery rose 13.5 dollars, or 0.98 percent, to settle at 1,386.5 dollars per ounce.
Oil prices rose amid escalating concerns that the possible Western military strike against Syria will disrupt Middle East oil exports.
Light, sweet crude for October delivery moved up 2.16 dollars to settle at 110.53 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for October delivery climbed 0.86 dollar to close at 116.12 dollars a barrel.