Wall St. Edges Up as U.S. Job Growth Rebounds

(Reuters) -
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Wall Street edged higher on Friday as energy stocks bounced back along with oil prices and U.S. job growth rebounded.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls surged by 211,000 jobs last month after a paltry gain of 79,000 in March, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, near a 10-year low.

Energy gave the biggest sector boost to the S&P 500, rising 1.2 percent after falling sharply a day earlier. Oil prices rebounded following assurances by Saudi Arabia that Russia is ready to join OPEC in extending supply cuts.

Even with the robust employment data, overall stock gains were muted. The benchmark S&P 500 has not moved more than 0.2 percent in either direction in the past eight sessions.

“You have got a market that has lost momentum and so we stay in a very tight trading range,” said William Delwiche, Investment Strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Milwaukee.

“It seemed like a pretty good jobs report, it would seem to allay some of the concerns that this recovery we have seen in the U.S. economy is faltering…” Delwiche said. “There’s an unwillingness right now for the market to not just move higher, but to move in any direction.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16.51 points, or 0.08 percent, to 20,967.98, the S&P 500 gained 4.18 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,393.7 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.47 points, or 0.16 percent, to 6,084.81.

The S&P 500 has gained 11.9 percent since Trump’s election, fueled by his plans for tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation. But the rally has stalled as some investors have questioned President Trump’s ability to enact his agenda.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at its policy meeting earlier this week. But the central bank downplayed weak first-quarter economic growth while emphasizing the strong labor market, in a sign it was still on track for two more rate rises this year. Investors are pricing in a 75 percent chance of a hike in June, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In corporate news, IBM shares fell 2.6 percent after Warren Buffett said he sold about one-third of Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s stake in the company.

Earnings season has come in generally above expectations, encouraging investors. First-quarter profits at S&P 500 companies are estimated to have increased 14.7 percent, the strongest since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of health insurer Cigna and IT services provider Cognizant rose after their respective reports.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.01-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.10-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 49 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 108 new highs and 58 new lows.