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Stocks seesaw as US election concerns persist; S&P tries to end 8-day slide

U.S. equities alternated between gains and losses on Friday after the release of key employment data while investors looked out for new developments from the presidential election.

The Dow Jones industrial average held flat, with Caterpillar contributing the most gains and Procter & Gamble the most losses. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 percent and was looking to snap an eight-day losing streak, with health care rising more than 1 percent to lead advancers and consumer staples leading decliners. The Nasdaq composite held just above breakeven.

"Nobody wants to do anything today. ... Everybody is on hold for Tuesday," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "I think next week you'll start seeing Wall Street coronate winners and losers. What I mean is you're going to start seeing investors switching sectors very quickly."

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose to trade near 22.5. The so-called fear gauge is also up nearly 40 percent this week.

The race between Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart, Hillary Clinton, has become tighter since last week, when the FBI said it was investigating new emails related to Clinton. According to data from RealClearPolitics, the average spread between Clinton and trump is now just 1.7 points in a four-way race, down from about 5 points last week.

"The market is pricing in a Hillary Clinton victory, but it's also been pricing in a split ticket, with Clinton taking the White House and a split in Congress," said Tom Siomades, head of Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group.

"It seems like the market is obsessed with the election," said Michael...