Wall Street closed a wobbly trading day with a large drop in equities on Friday, after a weak employment report raised questions about the Federal Reserve’s timetable to reduce its immense support for markets.
The S&P 500 fell 0.2% after fluctuating between small gains and losses for much of the day. The modest drop ended a three-day winning streak for the benchmark. Despite that, he managed a 0.8% gain for the week, less than half of the index’s loss last week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 8.69 points, or less than 0.1%, to 34,746.25, while the Nasdaq composite slipped 74.48 points, or 0.5%, to 14,579, 54.
Wall Street reacted with uncertainty and disappointment to the highly anticipated September jobs report. US stocks fluctuated throughout the day, as did Treasury yields.
The 10-year Treasury yield climbed to 1.60% from 1.57% Thursday night after initially falling to 1.56% immediately after the jobs report was released.
Small business stocks fell more than the overall market. The Russell 2000 Index lost 17 points, or 0.8%, to 2,233.09.
Much of Wall Street assumed that the job market had improved enough that the Fed soon began to cut back on its monthly bond purchases meant to keep interest rates in the long term. Investors had also asked the central bank to start raising short-term interest rates at the end of next year. The current ultra-low interest rates have been one of the main forces pushing stocks to record highs.
But Friday’s jobs report showed employers created just 194,000 jobs last month, well below the 479,000 economists were expecting. Many investors still expect the Fed to stick to its timetable, but the numbers were low enough to at least raise the question of whether it could wait longer to cut its bond purchases or possibly raise short rates. term.
“The lack of jobs is not pretty – there is no way around it,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial, in a statement. “And many may think that will cause the Fed to pause in terms of the reduction strategy. But the jury is out on how the market will interpret the data.”
Below the surface, the numbers don’t offer much clarity. The unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.1%, and the government has revised upward the hiring figures of recent months. But last month’s hires were still the lowest since December 2020. Average wages also rose a little faster than expected compared to August, helping workers but adding to concerns about inflation.
“This gives the Fed a bit more leeway on cutting and tightening in general,” said Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Wealth.
Inflation remains a big concern for investors after hitting its highest level in at least a decade, in part due to booming supply chains as the global economy reboots after its pandemic-caused shutdown. These supply chain issues will be a key focus for investors as they review the next round of quarterly corporate financial reports.
“Profit season is really going to be the next catalyst for the market to figure out where to go until the end of the year,” Hodge said.
Rising energy prices also contributed to inflation, and benchmark US crude for November delivery briefly exceeded $ 80 a barrel early Friday. This is the highest the first-month contract for U.S. oil has been since 2014.
This helped push S&P 500 energy stocks up 3.1%, by far the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the index. Exxon Mobil rose 2.8% and Pioneer Natural Resources 4.6%.
About three in five companies on the S&P 500 closed lower, with losses at tech and healthcare companies accounting for much of the decline. Citrix Systems fell 5.7%, while Bristol-Myers Squibb closed down 3%. Only energy stocks and banks recorded gains.
Friday’s choppy trading continues an already volatile run since the S&P 500 set its record on September 2. A rapid rise in interest rates and the prospect of less support from the Fed has forced investors to reassess if stock prices have risen too expensive. Concerns about rising interest rates have also combined with political unrest in Washington, DC.
The S&P 500 had four consecutive days until Tuesday when it alternated between a 1% gain and a 1% loss. In recent days, the market has been more stable amid relief that Congress appears to be delaying at least one disastrous default on US federal debt.
Overseas exchanges closed unevenly on Friday. In Europe, the German DAX lost 0.3% and the French CAC 40 fell 0.6%. London’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2%.
Asian markets were stronger. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.3%, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6%, and shares in Shanghai gained 0.7%.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed.