Market Recap: Stocks Mixed as Europe’s Debt Crisis Weighs on U.S. Payrolls

Markets closed mixed on Wall Street today: Dow -0.45%, S&P -0.25%, Nasdaq +0.16%, Oil -0.03%, Gold -0.14%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) fell slightly to $101.78 a barrel. Precious metals were also down, with Gold (NYSE:GLD) falling to $1,617.80 an ounce while Silver (NYSE:SLV) fell 1.98% to settle at $28.72.

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Today’s markets were mixed because:

1) Jobs. Markets again focused on jobs today as the Labor Department released its monthly employment report for December. According to the report, the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs last month, pushing down the unemployment rate from a revised 8.7 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December. The private sector reportedly added 212,000 new payrolls, while the government cut some 12,000 payrolls. Yesterday, ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) reported that the private sector had added some 325,000 new payrolls in December, though the Labor Department report is generally considered to be more accurate.

2) Europe. Unfortunately, worries about Europe’s ongoing debt crisis dampened enthusiasm over the better-than-expected payrolls report. Retail trade fell a worse-than-expected 0.8 percent in November, the European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat, reported on Friday. The European Commission’s measure of consumer confidence fell 0.7 points in December, while its overall reading of economic sentiment fell 0.5 points to 93.3, its lowest level since November 2009 — data that has “recession written all over it,” according to ING economist Martin van Vliet. The region is also facing high unemployment — well above that in the U.S. — with a joblessness rate of 10.3 percent of the working population in November.

3) Banks. Caught in the crosshairs between improving fortunes in the U.S. — including speculation about a government refinancing program for troubled homeowners that led financials in a rally on Thursday — and the problems in Europe, banks continued their balancing act today, forfeiting yesterday’s gains to close markedly lower. Still, many stocks, including JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), are still closing the four-day week in the green.

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