Dow Surges Nearly 750 Points on Strong Hiring Data, Dovish Comments From Fed Chair

January 5, 2019 12:01 am

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged nearly 750 points Friday, more than erasing its losses one day earlier, as a stock market hungry for good news received two morsels: a stronger-than-expected jobs report and comments from the Federal Reserve Chairman that signaled more flexibility in raising interest rates.

The Dow rallied 3.3% to 24,433.16, with the S&P 500 Index rising 3.4% to 2,531.94. Technology stocks, which have been especially volatile in recent months, were among the biggest gaining. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.3% to 6,738.86.

Apple’s stock rose 4.3% to $ 148.26 two days after the company warned that a slowdown in China and overall iPhone sales would cause its revenue in the holiday quarter to fall well short of analyst expectations. Before Friday, Apple had lost 39% of the peak value it reached in early October.

The tech sector was the best performing subset of the S&P 500, rising 4%. Many large-cap tech stocks rose even further, with Amazon gaining 5%, Microsoft rising 4.7%, Alphabet advancing 5.1% and Netflix surging 9.7%. Since a market selloff on Christmas Eve, Netflix has gained 27%.

Early Friday, the Labor Department said that U.S. employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, suggesting the underlying economy is holding up amid falling stock prices.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 312,000 in December, surpassing analyst forecasts. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% year over year, the fastest pace since 2009. The unemployment rate inched up from a five-decade low to 3.9% as more people entered the labor market to find work.

The stock rally advanced further after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated at a conference in Atlanta that the Fed may pause from raising interest rates in the coming months. “With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said. The remarks were received as more dovish than some of Powell’s recent comments, which have drawn the ire of President Trump.

Both developments were welcome in a market that had been bracing for more bad news. Apple’s revenue revision had led investors to worry about more disappointing earnings later this month. A Thursday report also showed manufacturing activity was slowing faster than expected. But investors took the jobs report in particular as a sign that the economy is holding up.

“No matter what the Fed’s going to do this year, today’s number showed that even though the Fed may still raise rates once or twice this year, it showed that a recession is still not very likely this year,” said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. “Recessionary fears were really starting to grow but today’s number eased those fears.”

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