S&P 500 returns to record following strong US jobs report
NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks rose Friday following a better-than-expected U.S. jobs report, and the strong finish pushed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to its third straight weekly gain despite some weakness earlier in the week.
The gains were widespread, and telecom and health care stocks helped lead the way. Overseas markets were also higher after negotiators hit a breakthrough in the United Kingdom’s efforts to leave the European Union.
The S&P 500 rose 14.52 points, or 0.6 percent, to finish at 2,651.50, another record. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 117.68, or 0.5 percent, to 24,329.16, and the Nasdaq composite rose 27.24, or 0.4 percent, to 6,840.08.
FILE – In this Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, file photo, a man walks towards the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are opening moderately higher on Wall Street, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, as investors welcome a strong U.S. jobs report and signs of progress in Britain’s departure from the European Union. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
The U.S. jobs report, which is the economic highlight of each month, showed that employers added 228,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained at a low 4.1 percent. It’s the latest evidence that the U.S. economy continues to improve, in sync with the rest of the world.
Paychecks, though, have not been getting much bigger, and hourly wages rose less last month than economists expected. Higher pay would help workers spend more, but it could also lead to higher inflation.
“The way risk markets are looking at it is it’s very much a Goldilocks environment: still muted or low inflation and very positive growth,” said Erin Browne, head of asset allocation at UBS Asset Management.
She said that it’s encouraging that an area of strength in the job market is the manufacturing industry. It’s an indication that companies are spending more on equipment and other things to grow, something that economists had been waiting years to see.
The jobs report is the last major piece of economic data before the Federal Reserve meets next week to discuss interest rate policy. Most economists expect it to approve the third increase in short-term rates for the year.
Biotechnology stocks helped lead the market, and health care stocks in the S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent for one of the biggest gains of the 11 sectors that make up the index.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals jumped $7.68, or 7.2 percent, to $114.46 for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 following a report from The New York Times that an activist hedge fund has bought shares in the company and pushed it to do more to lift its stock price.
Technology stocks in the S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent. The industry has been the market’s biggest winner this year, but it had stumbled recently as investors moved out of tech stocks and into companies seen as benefiting more from Washington’s push to overhaul the tax code, such as financial companies and retailers. The pullback was short-lived, and tech stocks erased their losses for the week.
Another potential source of worry for investors dissipated after Congress passed a spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown this weekend. The deal keeps the government running only until Dec. 22, though, when another deadline looms.
Stock markets in Europe climbed after negotiators reached a key agreement that allows talks to continue to the next stage for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Investors are hoping for a smooth exit that does not disrupt global trade.
In Germany, meanwhile, political parties agreed to open talks that could renew Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition. That helped Germany’s DAX index gain 0.8 percent. The FTSE 100 in London rose 1 percent, and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.4 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 1.2 percent and South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.1 percent.
The price of oil continued to recover from its sharp loss in the middle of the week. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 67 cents to settle at $57.36 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose $1.20 to $63.40 per barrel. That helped energy stocks in the S&P 500 rise 0.9 percent.
Natural gas added a penny to $2.77 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil gained 3 cents to $1.93 per gallon and wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.72 per gallon.
Gold slipped $4.70 to settle at $1,248.40 per ounce, silver rose 2 cents to $15.82 per ounce and copper added a penny to $2.98 per pound.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.37 percent.
The dollar ticked up to 113.51 Japanese yen from 113.13 yen late Thursday. The euro dipped to $1.1768 from $1.1774, and the British pound slipped to $1.3398 from $1.3465.
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