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Stocks muddle along following US jobs report; bonds steady


AP17307108028590.jpgStocks held steady on Friday after a report showed that the U.S. job market strengthened last month, but not by quite as much as expected.

Bond and commodity markets were also relatively quiet, with few big moves.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was close to flat at nearly 2,580, as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 23,501, and the Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,726.

JOBS REPORT: Employers added 261,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.1 percent, its lowest level in nearly 17 years. But job growth was weaker than economists forecast. So was growth in wages: Average hourly earnings were up 2.4 percent from a year earlier, a slowdown from September’s growth, which was revised down to 2.8 percent. Workers have been waiting for the strengthening job market to lead to bigger paychecks.

Economists said the last two months’ jobs reports have been difficult to parse because of all the damage that hurricanes did across broad swaths of the economy. The government initially said employers cut 33,000 jobs in September, but it said on Friday that employment actually grew by 18,000 during the month.

FED EFFECT: Reports on the economy have been mostly encouraging recently, which has raised expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at its next meeting in December. It would be the third increase this year.

Economists said Friday’s jobs report likely won’t change that timetable.

The Fed is slowly reining in the stimulus it provided the economy following the Great Recession. Besides gradually raising interest rates, it’s also trimming its bond-investment portfolio. Economists expect the slow pace to continue, even as a new chairman arrives. President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Jerome “Jay” Powell to succeed Janet Yellen, whose term expires in February.

TECH RISES: Technology stocks were among the market’s strongest, continuing a trend that has held for much of this year. Tech stocks in the S&P 500 have jumped 36 percent this year, more than double the 15 percent rise for the overall index.

Apple rose 2.2 percent on Friday, the first day of sales for its new iPhone model. The company reported stronger revenue and earnings for the latest quarter than analysts forecast, and it said it expects this holiday season to be its best quarter ever.

YIELDS: Bond yields held relatively steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.33 percent from 2.35 percent late Thursday. The two-year yield rose to 1.62 percent from 1.61 percent, and the 30-year yield dipped to 2.82 percent from 2.83 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 21 cents to $54.75 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 36 cents to $60.98 per barrel.

Gold slipped 60 cents to $1,277.50 per ounce, silver fell 3 cents to $17.11 per ounce and copper dropped a penny to $3.13 per pound.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: The French CAC 40 slipped 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX rose 0.1 percent and the FTSE 100 in London dipped 0.1 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.5 percent, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.3 percent. Japan’s market was closed for a holiday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 114.10 Japanese yen from 114.00 yen late Thursday. The euro dipped to $1.1634 from $1.1659, and the British pound rose to $1.3092 from $1.3060.