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Dow, S&P 500 end at record for second day despite tepid jobs data

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow industrials and S&P 500 ended at record highs for a second day on Friday, posting modest gains despite a mixed employment report that showed hiring slowed in July.

All but three of the 10 S&P 500 sectors ended higher, led by gains in the consumer discretionary index <.SPLRCD>, up 0.7 percent.

The jobs report showed non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, below expectations, but the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest since December 2008. The mixed data could make the Federal Reserve more cautious about scaling back its massive economic stimulus.

The tepid report follows a series of better-than-expected data and optimism about strong growth in the second half of the year.

"The employment number clearly was a surprise on the downside," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

"That the jobs picture has improved is pretty well established, so (the report) may not be the driver that it was before," Kuby said.

Among the biggest drags on both the S&P 500 and the Dow was Chevron , the second-largest U.S. oil company. Its shares fell 1.2 percent to $124.95. The company posted a steeper-than-expected 26 percent drop in quarterly profit.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 30.34 points, or 0.19 percent, at 15,658.36, a record close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 2.80 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,709.67, also a record. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 13.84 points, or 0.38 percent, at 3,689.59.

Stocks bounced late in the day after trading mostly flat, and both the Dow and S&P 500 also reached intraday record highs.

"This may be a little bit of traders not wanting to go into the weekend short," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Second-quarter earnings have mostly beaten expectations, with the season in its final innings. Of the 391 companies of the S&P 500 that have reported, 67.8 percent have topped analyst expectations, in line with the average beat over the past four quarters, data from Thomson Reuters showed. About 55 percent have reported revenue above estimates, more than in the past four quarters but below the historical average.

LinkedIn shares jumped 10.6 percent to $235.58 and several brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after results on Thursday topped expectations.

Dell's special committee and a group led by founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell announced a deal that dramatically increases the chances of his $24.6 billion buyout going through. Dell shares gained 5.6 percent to $13.68.

Among the day's losers, shares of Time Warner Cable fell 0.5 percent to $117.10 after news that Cox Communications Inc has held talks about merging with cable provider and rival Charter Communications Inc . Charter added 4.7 percent to $134.

Volume was roughly 5.68 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, below the average daily closing volume of about 6.4 billion this year.

Advancers beat decliners on the NYSE by about 15 to 14, while on the Nasdaq decliners beat advancers by about 13 to 11.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

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