Stocks Rise as Jobs Data Seen Keeping Rate Hikes in Check

NEW YORK (Reuters) -
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Wall Street stocks finished modestly higher on Friday after data showed U.S. job growth slowed more than expected in August, which could make the Federal Reserve cautious about raising interest rates again this year.

Traders in currency and bond markets, however, viewed the data as not soft enough to completely rule out another rate hike by the U.S. central bank this year. The dollar climbed and Treasury yields rose.

Headline jobs growth slowed after two straight months of strong gains, while average hourly earnings rose 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, versus forecasts of 0.2 percent.

MSCI’s All World Index, which tracks shares in 46 countries, was up 0.27 percent, less than 1 percent shy of a record high.

Global stocks managed to claw back from early-month declines to finish August with a fractional gain of 0.17 percent, according to the MSCI index.

The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 stock index scratched out an advance of 0.06 percent. Nonetheless, August was the poorest showing for U.S. equities since March and for global stocks since last October, the month before the election of Donald Trump as president.

On Friday, U.S. stocks climbed and all three major indexes posted gains for a second straight week.

“The latest economic data that came out today … didn’t provide information to the Fed that they need to go out and raise interest rates,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

“The data kind of continued to show this Goldilocks-type situation, which the market tends to like,” Carlson said. “It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.46 points, or 0.18 percent, to finish at 21,987.56, the S&P 500 gained 4.9 points, or 0.20 percent, to end at 2,476.55 and the Nasdaq Composite added 6.67 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 6,435.33.

European shares started September on a firm footing after three months of losses, as financials rose. The pan-European STOXX 600 index finished up 0.6 percent.

In the bond market, U.S. Treasury yields rose as strong manufacturing data boosted sentiment that economic growth is solid, even after the unexpectedly weak August jobs report.

The Institute for Supply Management said its index for factory activity soared to 58.8 in August, the highest since April 2011.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note yields rose to 2.162 percent from 2.122 on Thursday.

Treasuries are coming off their strongest month since June 2016, having delivered a total return of 1.13 percent in August, according to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Fixed Income Index data.

That outperformed most other classes of bonds as Merrill’s Corporate, Government & Mortgage Index returned just 0.94 percent.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.18 percent to 92.836.

“The [Fed] rate hike is still sort of a question mark, but [Friday’s jobs data] wasn’t that big a miss to take it totally off the table for the rest of the year,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior currency analyst at Oanda in Toronto.

Benchmark U.S. gasoline prices slid for the first day since Hurricane Harvey struck the U.S. oil industry heartland, as some refineries restarted operations.

Gasoline futures were down 1.92 percent.

U.S. crude settled up 6 cents, or 0.13 percent, at $47.29 a barrel and Brent crude settled 11 cents, or 0.21 percent lower, at $52.75.

Spot gold, which touched a 9-½-month high after the U.S. jobs data, was up 0.27 percent to $1,325.11 an ounce.