S&P notches weekly gain as jobs growth blows past forecasts

AP – A surprisingly strong United States (US) jobs report put investors in a buying mood on Friday, driving stocks on Wall Street broadly higher and extending the market’s winning streak to a third day.

The rally pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average up by more than 300 points and erased the S&P 500’s losses from earlier in the week, nudging the benchmark index to a second consecutive weekly gain.

Technology, financial and industrial stocks drove much of the gains. Utilities, a safe-play sector, were the only laggard. Bond yields rose.

The Labour Department said employers added 266,000 positions, well above estimates of 184,000. The report also showed unemployment falling to a 50-year low. Separately, an index that measures how consumers feel about the economy showed an increase from last month.

The encouraging reports offer reassurance for investors who may have been worried that consumers might be pulling back on spending, said Senior Investment Strategist at US Bank Wealth Management Rob Haworth.

“Increasing jobs, people back to work, plus that jump in consumer confidence tells you that the consumer is still there, and probably will still spend money,” he said. “It’s a better than we expected set of data, and clearly the market is pricing that in.”

Specialist Meric Greenbaum and trader Fred DeMarco work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP

The S&P 500 rose 28.48 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 3,145.91. The index posted a 0.2 per cent gain for the week, a solid pivot from losses of more than one per cent as of late Thursday. It’s now within 0.3 per cent of its all-time high set on November 27 and up 25.5 per cent so far this year.

The latest gains also helped stem some of the losses for the Dow and Nasdaq.

The Dow climbed 337.27 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 28,015.06. The Nasdaq gained 85.83 points, or one per cent, to 8,656.53. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 19 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 1,633.84.

Friday’s batch of encouraging economic data capped what started as a rough week for the market.

Increased trade tensions and disappointing economic reports – including data showing manufacturing continues to shrink and growth in the service sector is slowing – dragged the market to steep losses on Monday and Tuesday.

The latest employment report and consumer sentiment data are a welcome development as steady job growth has been one of the bright spots in the economy, along with solid consumer spending.

Investors also got some encouraging news on the US-China trade front, with Beijing saying on Friday that it is waiving punitive tariffs on US soybeans as negotiations for a trade deal continue.

Financial markets were rattled this week when President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t mind waiting until after the 2020 elections for a trade deal. Wall Street has been hoping enough progress can be made on a “phase 1” trade agreement to avert new tariffs on Chinese goods, such as laptops and cellphones, set to become effective on December 15. China has been seeking relief from some tariffs as part of the negotiations.

“You’re getting feel-good news going into the weekend,” Haworth said. “It doesn’t mean, to my mind, that all the concerns are off the table. One of the risks we’ll have in the coming week is you still haven’t gotten the phase one deal.”

Gains by technology sector stocks helped drive the market rally on Friday. Micron Technology rose 2.8 per cent.

Banks also rose, as the solid jobs report sent bond yields higher, which lenders rely on to charge higher interest rates on mortgages and other loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.84 per cent from 1.79 per cent late Thursday. JPMorgan Chase rose 1.5 per cent.

Industrial stocks also notched solid gains. 3M rose 4.3 per cent.

Uber fell 2.8 per cent after a safety report revealed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during its US rides in 2018. The report is part of the ride-hailing company’s effort to be more transparent after years of criticism over its safety record.

Benchmark crude oil rose 77 cents to settle at USD59.20 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained USD1 to close at USD64.39 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose three cents to USD1.65 per gallon. Heating oil climbed two cents to USD1.95 per gallon. Natural gas fell 10 cents to USD2.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell USD17.80 to USD1,459.10 per ounce, silver fell 46 cents to USD16.48 per ounce and copper rose six cents to USD2.71 per pound.

The dollar fell to JPY108.55 from JPY108.74 on Thursday. The euro weakened to USD1.1056 from USD1.1099. Major stock indexes in Europe finished higher.