(Reuters) – U.S. stocks edged higher in volatile trading on Friday after data showed U.S. jobs rose far less than expected in September, but not enough to throw the Federal Reserve off its presumed course of tapering asset purchases this year.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher in early trading. The energy index was the top gainer, up 2%, while shares of Amazon, Microsoft and Bank of America gave the biggest boost to the S&P 500.
The Labor Department’s closely watched nonfarm payrolls report showed hiring increased by 194,000 jobs last month, far less than the 500,000 jobs forecast by a Reuters poll of economists. While unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2% in August, average hourly earnings rose by a more-than-expected 0.6%.
“This weak number doesn’t push the Fed to need to taper any sooner. It might be December now versus November but it probably doesn’t rock the boat too much and tapering likely still takes place later this year,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial.
While investors expect the Fed to stick to its tapering plans this year, the weak data did not spur changes to rate hike expectations either. Futures on the federal funds rate has priced in a quarter-point tightening either by November or December next year. [MMT/]
The numbers follow better-than-expected private jobs data and weekly jobless claims report, while a temporary reprieve from U.S. Senate agreeing to raise the federal government’s $28.4 trillion debt limit set the three major U.S. indexes for weekly gains.
At 10:01 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24.85 points, or 0.07%, at 34,779.79, the S&P 500 was up 4.64 points, or 0.11%, at 4,404.40, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 2.64 points, or 0.02%, at 14,651.38.
Conagra Brands Inc slipped as J.P. Morgan downgraded the stock to “neutral” from “overweight”, a day after the diversified food maker flagged price increases to cushion inflation impact and raised sales forecast.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 10 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 43 new lows.
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