News that the nation's unemployment rate is stuck at an eight-year high put a damper on the exuberant stock market today.

Stocks opened down sharply an hour after the Labor Department reported that the nation lost more than 100,000 jobs keeping the unemployment rate at 6 percent.

But stocks pulled back after the initial plunge that drove the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 85 points and the Dow closed with what amounted to a break-even day, up less than 9 points at 8,784.95.

The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained 9, closing at 1,447.75

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index barely budged, closing down .01 at 927.57

Today's recovery suggested that if not for the weak jobs report, Wall Street might have scored another significant gain.

The Dow and S&P ended the week up 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite, up every day but one since New Year's, gained 4 percent for the week.

What keeps stocks climbing seems to be confidence that the economy is going to get better, even though the recovery may be delayed by international events. Many Wall Streeters believe that by now the looming war with Iraq and the threat from North Korea have pretty much been factored into stock prices. The market will still take a hit when and if something actually happens either place, the thinking is, but that will be a short term setback.

Oil prices have moderated this week, easing concern that gas pump sticker shock will undermine consumer confidence. And--no surprise to the cynics--yesterday it was reported that Christmas retail sales turned out to be not quite as bad as some nay-sayers were predicting.

The Bush administration's plan to eliminate the federal income tax on corporate dividends, still is too iffy to give the market much of a boost. But also yesterday investors' hopes were raised when it was discovered there is a potential cut in the capital gains taxes on stock market profits hidden in the proposal.