U.S. Stocks Sputter After Higher Open

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks opened ahead Friday but struggled to retain a third day of gains after the government reported slightly stronger-than-expected payrolls growth in November, helping offset worries about the economy while not derailing interest-rate hopes.

"We're're looking at a market that is getting a little overstretched, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some profit-taking," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.

Up at the start, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 9.6 points to 13,610.3, with 19 of its 30 components trading higher.

The S&P 500 fell 0.7 points to 1,506.64, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 11.86 points to 2,697.17.41.

Ahead of the opening bell, the Labor Department reported the addition of 94,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, and said the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%. Economists expected the rate to climb to 4.8%. .

The data "points to an economy that is not slipping into a recession anytime soon, but we're likely to see some sort of a pullback here because most of the news is already digested, and a rate cut is already priced in," said Cardillo.

In early action on the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures fell $1.4 to $88.83, while gold futures fell $5.4 to $801.8.

By Kate Gibson