US stocks pare losses after grim jobs report

US stocks pared back sharp losses Friday as traders digested a surprisingly weak March labor report and watched rising global tensions with North Korea.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 40.86 points (0.28 percent) to 14,565.25.

The broad-based S&P 500 slid 6.70 (0.43 percent) to 1,553.28, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 21.12 (0.65 percent) at 3,203.86.

The main indices had plunged in opening trade, shedding more than 1.0 percent, reeling from jobs data that came in far below expectations.

The Labor Department reported the US added only 88,000 nonfarm jobs in March, a third of the February gain and the slowest jobs growth in nine months.

Employment growth tanked far below the average analyst estimate of 192,000 jobs.

The Labor Department also reported the unemployment rate ticked down 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in February, due to people dropping out of the workforce.

The pullback in jobs gains "was simply awful," said Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at DA Davidson & Co.

"This piece of economic data adds some uncertainty regarding an economic surge needed near-term to push stock prices meaningfully higher."

Market sentiment was also under pressure from the worries regarding North Korean intentions after reports indicated Pyongyang had ordered two missiles to be relocated to North Korea's east coast, said.

Financials and tech stocks were under pressure. On the Dow, American Express slid 2.8 percent, IBM fell 0.9 percent and United Technologies was down 0.6 percent.

Blue-chip Microsoft reversed losses and gained 0.4 percent.

Oil majors Chevron and ExxonMobil fell 0.5 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.

Dow member Hewlett-Packard shed 1.5 percent after announcing its non-executive chairman Raymond Lane has decided to step down in a shakeup of the board of directors at the struggling US computer giant.

On the Nasdaq, heavyweight Apple fell 1.1 percent

Wall Street stocks had scored modest gains Thursday after the Bank of Japan's monetary stimulus plan boosted sentiment. The Dow rose 0.38 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.40 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 0.20 percent.

Bond prices soared. The yield on the 10-year Treasury plummeted to 1.69 percent from 1.76 percent Thursday, while the 30-year yield skidded to 2.86 percent from 2.99 percent. Bond prices move inversely to yields.