* U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in Dec
* Apple shares fall 2.3 percent after report on Samsung smartphones
* S&P 500 nears largest weekly gain in over year
* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Gabriel Debenedetti
NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Friday and the S&P 500 was on track for its biggest weekly gain in over a year after a jobs report showed employers kept the pace of hiring steady in December.
The S&P 500 index’s weekly gain would be its largest since December 2011. The index recorded the largest daily gain in more than a year on Wednesday following the “fiscal cliff” agreement.
Shares of Apple Inc dropped 2.3 percent to $529.62, continuing its downward path of recent months and pressuring the Nasdaq.
Adding to concerns about the iPhone maker’s ability to produce more innovative products, rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is expected to widen its lead over Apple in global smartphone sales this year with growth of 35 percent. Market researcher Strategy Analytics said Samsung had a broad product lineup.
The market improved modestly after data from the Institute for Supply Management, which showed the U.S. service sector grew at its fastest pace in 10 months in December, boosted by a rise in new orders.
“The jobs number today was somewhat benign. It was pretty close to what estimates were, so there wasn’t much to draw out volatility,” said Gordon Charlop, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York.
“I get the sense we’re just sort of going to digest the events of earlier this week,” he said, referring to the fiscal cliff deal.
The Labor Department said payrolls outside the farming sector grew by 155,000 jobs last month, slightly below November’s level. Gains in employment were distributed broadly throughout the economy, from manufacturing and construction to healthcare.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 19.04 points, or 0.14 percent, at 13,410.40. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 4.47 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,463.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 4.06 points, or 0.13 percent, at 3,104.62.
Eli Lilly and Co stock rose 3.7 percent to $51.57 after the pharmaceuticals maker said it expects its 2013 earnings to increase to $3.75 to $3.90 per share, excluding items, from $3.30 to $3.40 per share in 2012.
Shares of Mosaic Co gained 2.7 percent to $58.29. Excluding items, the fertilizer producer’s quarterly earnings beat analysts’ expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The Mosaic move helped boost the S&P Materials index to 0.8 percent, the biggest gainer of the major sector indexes.
The rise in payrolls shown by the jobs data did not make a dent in the still-high U.S. unemployment rate, but it calmed fears about the possibility of the U.S. Federal Reserve ending its highly stimulative monetary policy.
Concerns about the duration of the Fed’s stimulus program prompted a pull-back from the market Thursday after a rally.
Minutes from the Fed’s December policy meeting, released Thursday, showed Fed officials were increasingly worried about the risks of asset purchases to financial markets, though they looked set to continue with the open-ended stimulus program for now.
“I think you saw that in the reaction yesterday,” said Michael James, senior trader at Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles, adding that he thinks the equity markets will not be dragged further by the Fed minutes.